How times have changed.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a Republican congressman from Iowa named Steve King. An outright racist, anti-Semite, and white nationalist. He denounced immigration as a threat to Western civilization: "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." He slammed Democrats for electing so many women and minorities to Congress: "You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men." He refused to apologize for his white supremacy views, asking the New York Times: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization - how did that language become offensive?"
And what happened to Steve King? He was denounced by Republican Speaker John Boehner. He was condemned by the House 416-1. The Republican Steering Committee removed him from all House committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee refused to give him any campaign funds. He was trounced in the next Republican primary and lost his congressional seat.
How times have changed. And how the Republican Party has gone to hell.
Steve King's the poster boy for today's Republican Party. His extreme ideas are no longer on the fringe of the party. Republicans have just given them a fancy new name: the "great replacement theory" - the totally unfounded argument that Democrats, or Jews, or both, are deliberately working to empower nonwhite immigrants and African Americans. Why? In order to take power away from white people.
OK. Stop right there. By any measure, this theory shouldn't even get off the ground. White people are not victims. White people are not in peril. White people are not discriminated against, simply because they're white. Whether it's in politics, health care, education, entertainment, law enforcement, or any other endeavor, this is still a white person's world - and white people are not in any danger of losing their clout.
It's an idea so absurd it's hard to believe anybody could take it seriously, let alone kill for it. Yet that's what an 18-year-old - another self-described racist, white supremacist, and white nationalist - did last Saturday in Buffalo, NY. And he's not the first. In the 180-page screed he posted beforehand, the Buffalo killer admitted having been "inspired" by the March 2019 murder of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the August 2019 murder of 22 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
And how would a kid from Conklin, New York, learn about the "great replacement theory?" Easily. From social media; from Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro; and, shockingly, from leading Republican Members of Congress.
Last year Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa) used a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to spread the great replacement theory. "For many Americans, what seems to be happening or what they believe right now is happening is what appears to them is we're replacing national-born Americans, native-born Americans, to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation."
Perry's not alone. In March, Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) appeared in Orlando at a meeting of the America First Political Conference, an avowed white supremacist organization headed by white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
According to Judd Legum's Popular Information newsletter, other leading Republicans to publicly embrace the bogus great replacement theory include Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Ohio Senate candidate J. D. Vance, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and third-ranking House Republican leader Elise Stefanik (N.Y.). All of whom, of course, are echoing Donald Trump, who famously reacted to white nationalists marching through Charlottesville chanting "The Jews Shall Not Replace Us" by insisting there were "very fine people" on both sides.
And what's happened to those Republicans? Have they been thrown of the Party, like Steve King? Of course not. In today's Republican Party, they're not only tolerated, they're celebrated and given positions of power. The problem, of course, is that words have consequences. The great replacement theory is not only bogus, it's dangerous. Because, as Buffalo once again proved, there are too many sick people out there who will hear that nonsense, swallow it whole, and decide they have to kill as many nonwhite people as possible.
Sadly, only one lone Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney, dared speak out against the great replacement theory this week, accusing Republican party leaders of having "enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism."
"GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them,"
Cheney tweeted. She's right. But don't hold your breath.
They did it: Now they must pay the price
There are few events that fundamentally shake the entire body politic, but last week's leak of Justice Alito's draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, reportedly already signed onto by four other justices, is definitely one of them. It's changed the way we think about many things.
We used to think the rights we fought so hard for, once obtained, were secure forever. No longer. We knew Republicans had promised for decades to overturn Roe v. Wade, but we never thought they'd actually do it. Oh, yeah? We used to consider the Supreme Court an august, impartial, nonpolitical institution we could count on to uphold the Constitution's guarantee of equal rights for every American. Forget it!
To which I'll add this personal note: I also used to abhor "single issue" politics. There are so many important issues, I'd argue, it's not fair to judge any candidate based on one issue alone. But Samuel Alito changed my mind. Here's my new rule for the midterm elections.
Every candidate in 2022, for every office - Senate, House, governor, statewide office, or state legislature - should first have to answer one question: Do you support the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes or No? If your answer is no, I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat. You're cruel. You're out of step with the American people. You don't get my vote.
That's how important this issue is. For two reasons. First, for what it means to women. Remember, women were not guaranteed their rights in the Constitution. They had to fight for every one of them: the right to vote, the right to practice contraception, the right to decide for themselves when to have a child. Now the Trump court's rolling back the clock. As a man-person, I can have a vasectomy in any one of 50 states. But as a women-person, if you get pregnant, even by rape or incest, you can only have an abortion if the white men who control your state say it's OK. You're back to being only half a citizen.
Second reason: Because of what this means for other rights "unenumerated" in the Constitution. True, as Alito insists, the right to abortion's not spelled out in the Constitution. But neither's the right to practice contraception, or to love or marry someone of the same sex or different race. Today, under the Alito-Thomas-Gorsuch-Kavanaugh-Barrett logic, all of those rights could be wiped out. For the extreme Trump court, this is just the opening act in their zeal to destroy long-held individual freedoms.
I'm sure you've noted that, now that they're on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, Republicans suddenly don't want to talk about abortion. They say they'd rather talk about inflation or critical race theory. Donald Trump, who brags about everything, has hardly mentioned it. The National Republican Senatorial Committee even circulated a document warning Republican Senate candidates: "Abortion should be avoided as much as possible."
No way! We can't let Republicans get away with ducking this issue. This is their baby. Killing Roe v. Wade has been the centerpiece of their party platform for decades. It was the pledge of every Republican candidate running for office. It started with the appointment of Clarence Thomas and ended with Mitch McConnell's refusing to schedule a hearing on Merrick Garland and ramming through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. It's why evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics made a diabolical decision to support Donald Trump, a serial sexual predator. Because he promised to appoint only anti-abortion judges hand-picked by the Federalist Society.
Well, now Republicans have succeeded - and they must pay the price, starting this year. And the first polls conducted since the Alito leak show that, if Democrats make freedom of choice the number one issue in 2022, Republicans (and anti-choice Democrats) will have a steep political price to pay. According to a ABC News/Washington Post survey, 58 percent of Americans believe abortion should be "legal in all or most cases." CNN found that 66 percent of Americans believe Roe v. Wade "should not be completely struck down."
Even some Democrats criticized Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for scheduling a vote this week to make abortion legal, even though it was bound to fail. I disagree. I think that vote was important to remind the American people that, on this key issue, there is a profound difference between the two parties.
That was the first step. Now Democrats have to take that message to every House, Senate, gubernatorial and state legislative race in the country.
The outrage is not the leak, it's the decision.
So what do we know after the big Supreme Court leak of Justice Alito's draft majority decision on abortion? When all the dust settles, we know three things.
One. We know that whatever legitimacy the Supreme Court once held is gone, perhaps forever. It's no longer a revered, independent institution that soars above politics, trusted to defend the Constitution. Republicans have finally achieved what they want: a Supreme Court which is nothing but a branch of the Republican Party masquerading in black robes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it best last December, during oral arguments in the Mississippi abortion case, when it first became clear that there were five justices who, despite pledges to the contrary made in their confirmation hearings, were prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade. "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?"
The answer is No. And those five conservative justices could care less. They don't care about the court. They don't care about the law. They don't care about judicial precedent. They don't care about the Constitution. They don't care about the right of privacy. They don't care about women's rights. At least five of the justices (for now, I'm giving Chief Justice John Roberts a temporary pass) are nothing but political hacks, determined to carry out the agenda of the Republican Party.
Two. We know the court's going to vote to strike down Roe v. Wade. No doubt about it. At the very least, they will vote, as Roberts has reportedly urged, to uphold the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, which is itself contrary to the "viability" test of Roe.
Again, Republicans have been plotting this move relentlessly for 50 years. Cheating the system, where necessary. Blocking President Obama from filling a vacancy. Rushing Amy Coney Barrett through just eight days before a presidential election. Making it possible for presidents who lost the popular vote to appoint justices who ignore the will of the people. In the latest CBS poll, 62 percent of Americans said the court should leave Roe v. Wade just the way it is.
And, yes, to get their way, Republicans would even destroy the court by engineering a historic Supreme Court leak.
Don't be fooled. This leak of Justice Alito's draft was no accident. It was deliberately done by an anti-abortion staffer, most likely with the knowledge and consent of at least one conservative justice, for two purposes: to make it harder for any of the five committed anti-Roe justices to change their mind at the last minute; and to create a smokescreen, where everybody focuses on the "leak," and not on what outrageous decision the court is making - which is exactly what's happening. Everybody's talking about who leaked the document to Politico, and not about what the document says.
Don't be fooled. The media has it wrong. The outrage is not the leak. The outrage is that the Supreme Court's about to wipe out 50 years of established law, gut the right of privacy, deny women the right to control their own bodies, and make every American woman a second-class citizen. Why? Only because five un-elected conservative political puppets think it's "wrong." And that's just for starters.
Three. We know the extremists on the Supreme Court won't stop there. They've already succeeded in trashing Civil Rights by gutting the Voting Rights Act. Now they're going to do away with women's rights. Workers' rights won't be far behind. They'll destroy gay rights as soon as their right-wing allies bring a case challenging the court's same-sex marriage ruling. After two centuries of protecting and expanding individual rights, the Trump court is determined to shrink them. And in the short term, absent a timely death, there's no way to stop them.
Those three things we do know. But there's a fourth thing we don't know for sure, but can only count on.
Four. We know that if anything has the potential to motivate women, LGBTQ Americans, people of color, working men and women, and anybody else whose rights are threatened to get out and vote like they never have before, this is it.
Now's the time. There's never been a more important reason to vote. Freedom itself is on the line. This should turn the midterm elections upside down.
And the choice is clear. Whether you're liberal or conservative, if you believe in freedom, the Democratic Party believes in freedom. Today's Republican Party does not.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
America is Still Stuck in 1619
Did you miss me? Whether you noticed or not, I’ve been gone for a month, taking advantage of an incredible opportunity to spend a month as a resident scholar at the wonderful American Academy in Rome. The Academy’s a great institution, located on top of Rome’s Janiculan Hill, which brings together an exciting mix of people — artists, sculptors, composers, architects, historians, writers, classicists and an occasional outlier journalist like me — to work on a special project of their own. Its mission is admirably, yet simply, to give scholars “time and space to think and work.” How rare is that? My own project had nothing to do with Rome. For me, it was the opportunity to do a deep dive into “The 1619 Project.” This all-powerful collection of essays — which first appeared in August 2019 as a special edition of the New York Times magazine and, in a somewhat expanded form, was published as a book in 2021 — documents how systemic racism pervades every facet of American life. It’s probably the most important book written in the last 100 years. Think of its impact. Before it was even published, four other books were already in print attacking it, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, its editor and principal contributor, had won the Pulitzer Prize. I took on "The 1619 Project" the way scholars study the Bible, the Torah and the Qur'an: painstakingly weighing the meaning of every word. It’s that important, it’s that sacred. The book is not, as some critics have argued, a broadside attack on white Americans, accusing us all of being racists. Instead, it’s an eye-opening reality check, documenting in stunning detail how, 157 years after enactment of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, racism still underlies everything we do, in ways most of us don’t even realize. Starting with what we learn about our history, which is the key premise of "The 1619 Project." Most Americans cling to the belief we were taught in grade school, that America began with the arrival of the Mayflower and its cargo of white pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620 — ignoring the fact that America actually began one year earlier, with the arrival of the White Lion and its cargo of captive Africans at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. That profound ignorance of the legacy of slavery continues. A 2018 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that only 8% of high school seniors named slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. A 2019 Washington Post poll found that only half of Americans knew that slavery actually existed in all 13 colonies, not just in the South. It’s true that, in terms of racial equality, we’ve come a long way. Unfortunately, we’re so busy bragging about the progress we’ve made that we ignore the lingering impact of slavery today. That’s the strength of "The 1619 Project," showing how almost everything we do is still based on whether you’re white or Black. On COVID-19. Where Black Americans are 1.4 times more likely than white ones to contract the virus, 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.8 times more likely to die. On income inequality. Where Black households today hold only $10 in wealth for every $100 in white households. On prisons. Where Black people, who make up only 12.4% of the general population, account for 20% of American prisoners. On transportation planning. Where new highways plow through Black neighborhoods. On crime. Where whites who kill Blacks are 250% more likely to have their homicide ruled “justified” than when white people kill other white people. And, most significantly, on voting rights. Where in 2021 alone, 19 states enacted 34 new laws restricting access to the ballot, which, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center, will place significant burdens particularly on communities of color. And the list goes on. Read it and weep. Tackling "The 1619 Project" was personal for me, because I grew up in a segregated small town in Delaware, where whites and Blacks went to different schools, worshipped in different churches and shopped in different stores. I thought we’d put all that behind us. But my big take-away from "The 1619 Project" is: I grew up in a segregated small town, but I still live in a segregated country today. "The 1619 Project" raises a challenge for all of us. It’s one thing to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in this country, but what are we doing to fix it?
(C) Tribune Content Agency 2022
Supreme Court hearing: Bring on the clowns!
Watching the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court this week, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Not just at watching Republican senators launch such vicious, baseless, personal attacks on Judge Jackson. But at watching the ruins of what used to be a noble institution.
The United States Senate is no longer "the world's greatest deliberative body." Today, Republicans under Mitch McConnell have turned it into nothing but a clown show. And not even a funny clown show. But a monumentally embarrassing and racist clown show.
It's obvious that Republicans have no legitimate case to make against Jackson. So, instead, they've either just made stuff up, whined about what they considered unfair questions asked of recent Republican nominees (all of whom are now seated on the court), or used the hearing as an audition for their own 2024 presidential campaign.
Things went downhill fast on Day One when the committee's ranking Republican, Iowa's Chuck Grassley, pledged that his vote depended on whether or not Jackson was "committed to the Constitution as originally understood." Is Grassley really that dumb? Surely, he must know what the terms of "the Constitution as originally understood" would mean for Jackson. As a woman, she wouldn't be allowed to vote. As an African American, she wouldn't even count as a whole person.
But Grassley was a gentleman compared to Lindsey Graham, who got right to the heart of Jackson's qualifications for the Supreme Court by asking her how often she went to church. He praised her service as a public defender before suggesting she was pro-terrorist because, at GITMO, she served as a government-appointed public defender. Then, performing for the cameras, Graham stormed out of the committee room after declaring that he would have voted for an African-American woman from his home state of South Carolina, but he was never going to vote for an African-American woman from Florida.
After that, knowing they could not block Jackson, Republican senators resorted to playing the party base's greatest hits: accusing Jackson, with zero evidence, of being soft on crime, a champion of "critical race theory," and pro-child pornography.
On critical race theory, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), clearing aiming for 2024, led the charge. Jackson must believe in critical race theory, he argued, because a stack of books he claimed to have obtained from the library of the Georgetown Day School, where Jackson sits on the board, allegedly support critical race theory. Cruz could point to nowhere in 573 opinions issued by Jackson in her decade on the bench where there's any reference to CRT. So why would he raise this issue against Jackson? Because she's Black!
On child pornography, Missouri's Josh Hawley, another 2024 wannabe, accused Jackson of letting men convicted of possessing images of child pornography off the hook. Several news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN, examined Hawley's claim and found it baseless. Even the conservative National Review said Hawley's charge was "meritless to the point of demagoguery." So why would Hawley continue this line of attack against Jackson? Because she's Black!
On crime, Cruz, Hawley, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, like Sen. Graham earlier, all suggested that, because she was a public defender, and not a prosecutor, Jackson must be soft on crime. When, in fact, as Jackson pointed out, the right to legal representation is one of the fundamental tenets of the Constitution. Again, with nothing in her record to suggest otherwise, why would they accuse Judge Jackson of being soft on crime? Because she's Black!
All in all, the Judiciary Committee hearing has been one of the most disgusting, overt examples of racism this country has seen since Jim Crow. These weren't mere dog whistles of racism. These were megaphones of racism. A disgusted Sen. Raphael Warnock summed it up best: "I do think it's a legitimate question to ask: Would they be asking these questions if this were not a Black woman?" The answer is No.
As I write this column, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on confirmation of Judge Jackson are still underway. We don't know what the final vote will be. But these three things we know for sure: Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed as the next justice on the United States Supreme Court. She will make history as the first public defender and the first African-American woman ever to serve on the nation's highest court. And Republicans will once again be on the wrong side of history.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
John Bolton and me
It's one of the first political adages I heard: "Politics makes strange bedfellows."
And it's proved true on many occasions, like 1996 when, as Democratic state chair of California, I campaigned with California's Republican chair, against Proposition 198, which allowed voters of any party to vote for any candidate in primary elections. That measure passed, only to be declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court two years later.
But the "strange bedfellows" adage never proved more true than it did this week when I interviewed John Bolton on my podcast, the Bill Press Pod.
Before that interview, Bolton and I had nothing in common. He's a lifelong Republican, I'm a lifelong Democrat. He's a conservative, I'm a liberal. He's a member of the hawkish foreign policy establishment, I'm basically a pacifist. He's served three presidents: assistant attorney general under Ronald Reagan; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush; national security advisor under Donald Trump. I've served none. But Bolton and I found a lot in common when it comes to Ukraine.
First, we both agree that Ukraine's worth fighting for and defending. Why? Because it's not just Ukraine at stake, it's the security of Western Europe and the United States, and the future of democracy over a murderous authoritarian regime. "A Russian victory in Ukraine is going to undermine peace and stability in Europe, and it's going to threaten our NATO allies," Bolton told me. "That's why it's of interest to the United States."
Bolton also praised the "heroic" resistance of the Ukrainian people, starting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, and expressed his surprise at the embarrassing performance of the Russian military: "They went after too many targets with too little resources. Their logistics have been horrible, running out of food and gasoline, just a few miles from their own border."
In terms of American support for Ukraine, Bolton agrees with what support President Biden has provided so far, but still thinks we need to do more. If not a full-fledged "no-fly zone," then at least a "humanitarian-fly zone," to protect escape routes for Ukrainian refugees, and somehow getting Russian-made MIG's to Ukraine. "Maybe they're not the best planes in the world," Bolton acknowledges, "but Ukrainian pilots know how to fly them."
Surprisingly to me, Bolton was strongest in his open criticism of Donald Trump's role in what's happening in Ukraine. I asked him if Trump's infamous phone call to President Zelensky, in which he conditioned American aide on Ukraine's launching an investigation into Hunter Biden, sent any kind of signal to Putin that the United States was "soft" on Ukraine. "Absolutely," said Bolton, "and it had a very detrimental effect on one of Ukraine's highest priorities, which was to establish a good bilateral relationship" with the United States.
And Bolton ridiculed Trump's assertion that Putin would never have invaded Ukraine were he still in the White House. In fact, Bolton said, Trump "barely knew where Ukraine was. He saw everything through the prism of where Hillary Clinton's server was being hidden and what Hunter Biden was doing to earn an income. He didn't understand what the strategic significance of this (Ukraine) was."
Bolton recounted how he, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were relieved when Trump didn't pull out of NATO at NATO's 2018 summit, as they'd feared. Had he won a second term, however, Bolton's convinced Trump would have done so - thereby weakening NATO and, in effect, doing Putin's work for him. For someone like Trump, Bolton said, "their phrase is 'useful idiot,' and they haven't forgotten that in Moscow."
Even after Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Bolton pointed out, Trump still doesn't get it. At a recent fundraiser, he suggested we paint American fighter planes with Chinese colors and send them in to attack Russian airplanes. Then the Russians would retaliate against the Chinese, and we could just sit on the sidelines and watch. "This is the level of thinking of the former president," Bolton scoffed. Which is why he concluded, "after close observation," to resign as national security advisor on Sept. 10, 2019.
Finally, while he doesn't believe Trump will run in 2024, Bolton told me that, unlike former Attorney General Bill Barr, he would not support him if he did. "I didn't think he was fit to be president and I'm not going to vote for somebody who meets that description, no matter who his opponent is." Good for Bolton. Politics does, indeed, make strange bedfellows.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
No second chance for Bill Barr
A few weeks ago, I recommended that you read "Unthinkable" by Congressman Jamie Raskin, his powerful new book on a double tragedy: the loss of his son to suicide and the near loss of our democracy on January 6. Here's another must read: "Shackleton" by Ranulph Fiennes, the positively gripping account of the explorer's three expeditions to Antarctica: almost as good as slushing across the ice yourself, and especially relevant with the discovery of Shackleton's sunken ship, Endurance.
But today I hasten to add one book you must ignore: "One Damn Thing After Another," the pathetic apologia released this week by Trump Attorney General William Barr. Don't pick it up. Don't buy it. Don't read it. And, above all, don't believe it.
Betting on our having the collective memory of a gnat, Barr devotes almost 600 pages to painting himself as the one man in the Trump administration who dared stand up to Donald Trump and single-handedly save our democracy. Baloney! Unfortunately for him, we remember all too well: that in the passel of toadies around Donald Trump, Bill Barr was one of the biggest toadies of all.
OK, give him credit for this. On Dec. 1, 2020, Attorney General Barr told Associated Press that the Justice Department had investigated allegations of widespread voter fraud and "to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election." Of course, that totally contradicted everything Trump was saying at the time. And, by the way, is still saying.
Trump went nuclear. He summoned Barr to the White House, where, as Barr told NBC's Lester Holt, "I told him that all this stuff was bullshit about election fraud. And, you know, it was wrong to be shoveling it out the way his team was." At which point, Barr offered, and Trump accepted, his resignation. Barr actually resigned as AG two weeks later.
For that one good deed: Bravo, Bill Barr. But let's not go overboard in praise. For two reasons. One, all Barr really did was accept the results of a popular election Joe Biden had won by more than 7 million votes! Which was hardly an act of great courage. Two, one good deed does not come close to erasing the tons of damage Barr did in his two-year tenure as attorney general, when he turned the Justice Department into Trump's personal law firm.
Barr only got the job in the first place because, as a former attorney general, he wrote and released an unsolicited memo attacking the Robert Mueller investigation as "manufactured," "phony," and "bogus." Any probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, he argued, was part of "mendacious and fraudulent attempts to invalidate the legitimate election of an American president."
Then, once Jeff Sessions was tossed out and he was sworn in, Barr proceeded to undermine the Mueller investigation any way he could. First, by refusing to release the full Mueller report. Instead, he wrote a four-page letter to Congress which deliberately misrepresented the report by asserting it "did not draw a conclusion one way or the other" on obstruction of justice. Not true. In fact, Mueller's report says: "Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations."
In the months following, Barr repeatedly acted to scuttle Mueller's work and suck up to Donald Trump. When federal prosecutors recommended a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for Trump consigliere Roger Stone, Barr personally intervened to cut it in half. Even after Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, Barr intervened to dismiss all charges against him. Then, having effectively scuttled any investigation of Trump, he appointed prosecutor John Durham to investigate the FBI, which Barr accused of "abuse of power." Former DOJ officials have told me it will take years to restore the department's reputation for independent, politics-free enforcement of the law.
The biggest question about Barr's desperate attempt to rebuild his own reputation is: Why wait till he had a book to sell? Had Barr only spoken out in December 2020, he could have helped expose and destroy Trump's "Big Lie" - and we might have been spared the trauma of January 6.
Even today, Barr can't quit Donald Trump. Even though he holds Trump "broadly responsible" for January 6, Barr said this week he would still vote for Trump in 2024. What a phony. Boycott Bill Barr's book.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The GOP's Vladimir Putin Fan Club
A couple of weeks ago in this column, borrowing the title of Congressman Jamie Raskin's new book, I lamented recent events that were "Unthinkable." Well, here's one more. For most of us, it's "Unthinkable" that in our lifetime we would see another bloody land war in central Europe. Yet here we are: Vladimir Putin's unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Equally "Unthinkable" is the response of top Republicans. Seriously, as we gird for the bloodiest European war in almost 80 years, you have to wonder: Whose side are Republicans on? Clearly, they're not on the side of France, the UK, Germany, Poland, the Baltic States, NATO, or the United States. This week, after rejecting all efforts at diplomacy, Vladimir Putin broke every principle of international law by invading Russia's neighboring country of Ukraine. Without provocation, he put us on the brink of World War III. And how did most Republican leaders respond? First, they blamed Joe Biden! Then, they actually praised Putin, or promised to look the other way. No surprise, Donald Trump is president of Putin's fan club. Less than 24 hours after Putin invaded Ukraine, Trump declared: "This is genius! ... He's gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. ... Here's a guy who's very savvy. ... And he loves his country, you know?" OK, so we expect this of Donald Trump. After all, this is the guy who once refused to condemn Putin for killing journalists and political opponents. "But he's a killer," former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly pressed Trump in 2017. To which Trump merely shrugged: "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" And we all remember Helsinki in 2018, when Trump said he believed Putin over the conclusion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, when Putin assured him that Russia had not attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. But Trump's not singing solo in the GOP chorus of Putin praise. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Putin "savvy," "shrewd," and "a very talented statesman" for whom he has "enormous respect." Giving Putin a pass, Ohio GOP Senate candidate J. D. Vance insisted Ukraine's not worth fighting for. Arizona's nutty Congressman Paul Gosar said we should worry about our own borders, instead. Trump whisperer Steve Bannon said we should be supporting Putin because he's "anti-woke" and anti-LGBTQ. And conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted that if Putin did, in fact, invade Ukraine, "WE are at fault." Wait! As if that's not enough, no sooner had President Biden stepped away from the podium after announcing the first tranche of sanctions against Russia for its initial incursion into Ukraine than the House Republican caucus under Kevin McCarthy tweeted out: "This is what weakness on the world stage looks like." From our home on Capitol Hill, you could almost hear House Republicans begin their meeting by placing their hands over their hearts, and reciting their new-found loyalty: "I pledge allegiance to the flag - of the Russian Federation - and to its leader, Vladimir Putin." If only reporters had been present at the GOP caucus to ask: So what's your plan? If the toughest economic sanctions ever against any country aren't enough, what do you propose? American troops on the ground? Bombing Moscow? But, of course, they have no answer. Republicans have no foreign policy agency, just like they have no domestic agenda. No matter how important it is for the American people, their sole guiding principle is: If Joe Biden's for it, we're against it. And make no mistake about it. Not letting Putin get away with the invasion and seizure of Ukraine is important. Indeed, vital. It's about a lot more than Ukraine. It's about world security. It's about the sanctity of national borders. It's about the rule of law and the strength of international treaties. It's about the future of democracy. It's about the unchecked power of autocrats anywhere to invade and destroy their neighbors. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky reminded us we've been down this road before: "Russia vilely attacked our state early this morning, just as Nazi Germany did during World War II." Sadly, there were leading Americans like Joseph Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, and Father Charles Coughlin who defended Nazi aggression back then, just like there are those who defend Russian aggression today. Donald Trump and his GOP supporters are today's appeasers. One might have debated the wisdom of NATO expansion before Putin's invasion, but now's the time to take sides. This is a choice between good and evil. Too many Republicans have already chosen the wrong side.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.