Invading Species

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 5:56  .  .  .

From H.R. McMasters’ 1996 book Dereliction of Duty about the war in Vietnam:

“The disaster of Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisers. The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.” [emphasis added]

McMasters’ words ring both true and frighteningly current.

While holding control of the Senate, Mitch McConnell refused for over 300 days to consider any nominee offered by President Obama to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. He cited as precedent that no outgoing president has ever had a Supreme Court pick, so neither should Obama.

McConnell’s claim was factually wrong. Many presidents have submitted Supreme Court nominees in their last year in office, including Ronald Reagan, who nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Court. So, McConnell was flagrantly dishonest, hypocritical and self-serving, but he had the power to prevent hearings, so Merrick Garland never had a chance.

Now Anthony Kennedy has retired and President Trump’s replacement pick is Brett Kavanaugh. Most of the documentation of this man’s judicial and political life has been withheld from Senate Judiciary Committee members, who are tasked with vetting Court nominees.

I’ll put that in school days terms. Here are the rules for your test:

  1. 42,000 documents that are pertinent to the test will be available for download tomorrow at 4:00 AM The test will begin just 5 hours later.
  2. Sorting through the documents for relevant content is your problem. Good luck.
  3. There is 10 times more material that we won’t let you see and it is likely the most important material for this test.

The chairman of this committee is Sen. Chuck “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” Grassley, (R-IA), who is prone to saying absurdly false things and doing so with a straight face and always for partisan advantage. He was true to form during the Kavanaugh hearings.

Motions were made repeatedly by Democratic members of the committee to postpone hearings on Kavanaugh so that background material could be properly reviewed. Grassley claimed that he didn’t have to entertain any motion while the committee was not in executive session – this was a hearing – so he ignored the motions. He did that in wilful contradiction of the rules of his own committee, which don’t require executive session to entertain a motion to adjourn.

Grassley is what might be called a useful idiot for the Republican Party. Useful idiots are and have been for quite a while an invading species, one specimen of which is in the White House right now.

We were reminded last week at the memorials for John McCain about duty, honor and about serving something much bigger than ourselves. Failure to do that surely is bi-partisan, but for the past few decades the Republicans have been honing that failure into a disaster machine.

I repeat H.R. McMaster’s words:

The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.

Right now the failings are many and they are reinforcing. There is arrogance, weakness and lying in the pursuit of self-interest. Above all, our powerful people in Congress are abdicating their responsibility to the American people.

And another thing  .  .  .

In his Senate Judicial Committee hearings Brett Kavanaugh refused comment or weaseled around questions concerning:

  1. Whether a president can be subpoenaed
  2. Whether water-boarding is torture and whether he concurred with John Yoo’s declaration that the CIA could torture prisoners.
  3. Whether Roe v. Wade was properly decided and whether he would vote to uphold it
  4. Whether he was involved in President Bush’s signing statement that eliminated the McCain Anti-torture bill that had been passed in Congress
  5. Whether President Trump can fire Robert Mueller
  6. Whether a president must respond to a subpoena
  7. Whether a president has an absolute right to pardon himself
  8. Whether a president could pardon others in exchange for them agreeing not to testify against the president
  9. Whether Kavanaugh would recuse himself from cases involving Trump’s “personal criminal or civil liability.”
  10. Whether he would uphold the requirement for healthcare insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions
  11. Whether a president can be protected from investigation while in office
  12. What the limits of presidential power are.

There is far more, including Kavanaugh’s lies under oath when he was being confirmed as a judge years ago.

Just as the conceits and hubris of Presidents Johnson and Nixon engineered and sustained the disaster in Vietnam, the integrity outages of McConnell, Grassley, Kavanaugh and all the Republican enablers are an invading species that is laying the paving stones of the road to ending our democracy.


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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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4 Responses to Invading Species
  1. Jay Becker Reply

    I think construction of that “road” is already well underway. The process that is putting Kavanaugh on the court has been a farce (or “not normal” as we say so often these days) from the beginning, as you point out. Anonymous WH official(s) wrote an op-ed calling Trump “unstable,” Sen Warren says we are in a Constitutional crisis already, and yet Trump is still in power, with his finger on the nuclear trigger. We can’t afford to wait until November and hope there isn’t a crisis, as Bob Woodward said this morning.

    There are plans for an emergency meeting tomorrow night and an action Saturday to demand that the whole Trump/Pence regime must go. If you’re in the Chicago area, please join us.

    FB event for planning meeting Monday:

  2. Dan Wallace Reply

    Two thoughts, Jack. First, I think Brett Kavanaugh is probably the kind of judge who belongs on the Supreme Court representing a more conservative bent, as long as the Court itself is populated fairly. In that regard, I would hope that if I were a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (of either party), all I would have said to Judge Kavanaugh is, “Sir, you seem like a very well qualified and experienced judge, so I don’t want you to take this personally. I have no questions for you. I am going to vote against your confirmation, and against the confirmation of ANY nominee to the Court, until Merrick Garland is re-nominated and gets a hearing. He doesn’t have to get confirmed, but he has to get a hearing. That is necessary in order to restore some measure of integrity to this process.” Of course, I traffic in fantasies, as you know.

    Second, I would plead with you to not put Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley in the same bucket. McConnell is smart and cynical, as shown by the speech he gave to an empty Senate floor about how appalled he was by Democrats’ knee-jerk opposition to the Kavanaugh appointment. See the back half of this video (starting around 6:15)

    It is both interesting and awful to watch him feign horror and fail to hide his smirk. The term “special place in hell” gets overused these days, but applies here.

    Chuck Grassley is a different case. I can’t say that I knew him, but was around him some and knew members of his staff when I worked for a different Republican senator in the early 80s. The sad reality is that he’s just plain not very smart. In fact, that’s probably on the kind side. At least that was my experience of him. McConnell knows exactly what he’s doing. Grassley probably doesn’t. Back when he shared Iowa’s senatorial duties with Roger Jepsen, they were known in the halls of the Capitol as Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. Sad to say, but stupid and cynical are not the same thing. I’m afraid the people to blame here are the good people of Iowa.

    As an aside, you might recall that Jepsen lost his 1984 re-election bid to Tom Harkin after being discovered to have used the services of what were loosely called “massage parlors.” The way this came to light is that he paid for said services with a personal credit card.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Makes sense. So, it’s Tweedle Dumber and Tweedle Cynical.

      NOTE TO READERS: Click through Dan Wallace’s last link. Then observe and behold the dumb. It’s breathtaking.

      • Dan Wallace Reply

        I was thinking “Tweedle Venial.” But that’s just me.