January 15, 2019

Why Concern About the Trump-Russian Connection Is Not Simply Paranoia

If President Donald Trump did not have a problematic relationship with the Russian government and if he were a mentally healthy person of normal intelligence, he would recognize that appearances raise legitimate concerns about that relationship, and he would offer a satisfactory explanation for those appearances, rather than constantly asserting that “there was no collusion.”

January 14, 2019

Protecting Already-Born Women

Having read the extended report by the editorial board of The New York Times titled “A Woman’s Rights,” I was distressed to read the story in my local paper, The Indiana Gazette, that carried the headline “White Seeking Change to Pennsylvania High Court’s Decision.” “White” is the powerful local state senator Don White, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision referred to ruled that a woman cannot be charged with child abuse for her drug use during pregnancy. A Gazette story a few days earlier explained that
The Supreme Court’s main opinion said the law’s definition of a child does not include fetuses or unborn children, and victims of perpetrators must be children under the Child Protective Services Law.
I immediately recognized the danger in Senator White’s proposal. After a couple of days’ consideration, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Gazette that was published last week. The text of my letter follows:
I oppose state Sen. Don White’s efforts to facilitate prosecution for child abuse of mothers who have taken illegal drugs (“White seeking change to high court’s decision,” Sunday).
Whereas his appears to be a sincere effort to protect the innocent, it is actually a step toward granting personhood to the unborn and abridging the constitutional rights of women. Attributing personhood (and therefore rights) to the unborn is a legal minefield intended by anti-choice activists ultimately to outlaw abortion and perhaps even birth control.
In the near future, it could allow for such absurdities as prosecution for homicide of less-than-perfect mothers experiencing miscarriages. Senator White’s proposal must not become law.
Lionel Deimel
Whether my letter will cause people to rethink their initial reaction to Senator White’s proposal, I don’t know. I hope it will.

Can We Find Common Ground on the Wall?

The government shutdown caused by President Trump’s insistence that Congress appropriate nearly six billion dollars for his border wall continues into this week. A wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico is a wasteful and ineffectual project dreamed up by the Trump campaign to rally Trump’s most rabid and ignorant voters. The Democrats, fresh from a major win in the recent midterm elections, see an opportunity not only to derail an ill-conceived project but also to deliver a devasting blow to a dangerous and incompetent president. Trump recognizes the threat and is seeking to avoid defeat at all costs.

I suggested earlier that the current standoff will likely end when constituents pressure the Congress to reactivate those parts of the government that have been closed down. At that point, a funding bill could be passed over a presidential veto. Before that happens, Trump may declare an “emergency,” which could trigger a constitutional crisis those outcome cannot be predicted. Is a compromise available that delivers at least a partial victory to each side? I think there is.

Trump’s wall is clearly a wacky idea that, even if built, would not fulfill his promise of its being paid for by the Mexican government. That said, our southern border already contains lengths of barriers that have been considered necessary and effective by both Republicans and Democrats. Trump’s funding demand clearly will not complete a Great Wall of America. However, what if the president proposed building a specific type of barrier in specified places and articulated credible justification for the project? If he is incapable of doing this, gridlock will continue. If Trump can offer a rational argument for a limited construction project and not just his I-want-it-so-you-have-to-give-it-to-me reasoning, perhaps politicians can find a compromise to fund an enhanced border barrier and reopen the government.

Likely, neither the president nor congressional Democrats will be fond of my suggestion, but, if politics is the art of the possible, there may be a way forward to be had on the table.

January 5, 2019

A Prediction

I am not in the habit of making predictions regarding political events. Prognostication too easily leads to embarrassment. Nevertheless, today I confidently stick my neck out: The partial government shutdown will not last a year (as President Trump suggested it could) or any substantial part of a year. You can take that prediction to the bank.

As we enter the third week of the government shutdown caused by Trump’s insistence of being granted billions of dollars—the latest number is 5.6—for construction of a wasteful and unnecessary wall on our southern border, neither the president himself nor the newly empowered Democrats seem inclined to abandon the presently held position. Trump views wall-building as the fulfillment of a major campaign promise, though he seems to have forgotten the other part of his promise, namely, that Mexico would pay for the wall. Democrats, emboldened by their electoral success in the recent midterms, are presenting a united front against funding Trump’s Folly, though not against money for “border security.” Each side believes it would be suicidal to relent.

Democrats, however, have the stronger position. The government shutdown, contrary to Trump¹s confident, yet uninformed, prattle, is not popular, particularly among those whose livelihood is being threatened by it. Moreover, Trump has gleefully taken credit for the shutdown, though he now is trying to pin the blame on the Democrats. The Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, have presented a picture of reasonableness, being willing to pay for border security and to accept funding priorities previously adopted by a Republican Senate.

Long before the year Trump has suggested a shutdown might last, Americans will revolt. They will insist on having their National Parks, airport security, and income tax refunds. The Trump base may stick with its champion, but Republican members of Congress will see the writing on the wall. If they continue to support the president and his infantile tantrums over wall funding, their own continued employment will be in jeopardy. Republicans will eventually have to respond to the angry cards, letters, and phone calls from Americans demanding an end to governmental insanity and a return to business as usual. Calls for money to build a wall will be few and far between.

In the end, President Trump will lose and lose big. His intransigence may itself be sufficient to make impeachment seem like the only reasonable way forward.

God save the United States of America!

January 4, 2019

Congress, Grow a Backbone

For the past two years, Congress, under Republican control, refused to pass bills—in many cases, even refused to consider bills—that President Trump had declared he would not sign. Undoubtedly, congressional Republicans and the president were often in agreement regarding public policy, though likely not always. Party loyalty was assuredly being put before concerns for the public good.

The Founding Fathers created a form of government consisting of three branches. Those branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—were related to one another, but they were intended to possess a substantial degree of independence. In particular, it was not the intent of the Constitution that the president would be the determiner of what bills Congress would pass.

To a remarkable degree, President Trump has merged the legislative and executive branches into a unified body for the creation of public policy. More worrisome still has been the Republican packing of the judicial branch with judges holding unpopular views, but views consistent with those of our current, unpopular president. It is not hyperbolic to suggest that the checks and balances built into the polity of the United States of America are threatened as never before.

A ray of hope for democracy is represented by the capture of control of the House of Representatives by members of the Democratic (not Democrat!) Party. Democrats are immediately challenging what has become the status quo. The House has passed spending legislation consistent with what the Senate passed in the previous Congress. That legislation lacks funding for Trump’s ill-conceived wall, however. The Senate should concur with what the House has done and challenge the president to veto the legislation. Surely, Trump would be inclined to exercise a veto, but doing so would likely be widely unpopular, particularly among workers being deprived of their livelihood by the current partial government shutdown.

Congress has an opportunity to assert its independence and should do so forthwith. It is unlikely that Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will allow a vote on legislation the president doesn't want, but allowing the Senate to vote on the legislation passed by the House will give the Senate, Senator McConnell, and the American people more power. Congress’s growth of a backbone just might force the president to do something he doesn’t want to do. At the very least, it would put President Trump between a rock and a hard place.