uncharted territory

I can’t even count how many times during the Trump campaign and presidency I have heard historians, policy experts, and commentators say that we are in “uncharted territory.” It’s bewildering as each new scandal breaks, only to be swallowed up by the next one.

The story that has been breaking over the last few days is that a whistleblower from the intelligence community went to the inspector general with an issue of concern. The inspector general found the issue credible and urgent and, as statute dictates, told the (acting) Secretary of Homeland Security who was supposed to send the information on to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who have oversight duties. Instead, he brought the concern to the executive branch, in this case to the White House and the Department of Justice. He is now refusing to pass the information on to the committees because the person under question is not part of the intelligence community, even though the  statute is clear that the information must be handed over regardless of who is the subject.

Partial information about the case has been sussed out by the press. Apparently, the whistleblower was alarmed by a pattern of behavior by the president toward Ukraine. Part of the problem seems to be that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of former vice-president Joe Biden and his son; Joe Biden is one of the top tier Democratic contenders vying to run against Trump for the presidency in 2020. Trump now admits discussing the matter with the president of Ukraine, although he says he didn’t “pressure” him. If, however, the allegation is true that DT did pressure the Ukrainian president, he could be investigated for extortion, campaign finance violations, and courting foreign influence in a US election. He could also be charged with obstruction for not turning over evidence in a Congressional investigation.

And this new issue is on top of the possible obstruction of justice acts described in the second half of the Mueller report.

And the emoluments case wending its way through the courts and under investigation by the House.

And keeping members of his cabinet and staff, present and former, from cooperating with document requests and testimony, which is also obstruction.

And he hasn’t turned over tax returns for himself and his businesses, despite valid Congressional requests and New York state court subpoenas.

This is not a complete list.

The level of corruption is staggering.

What is needed at this point is for Congressional Republicans to step up and hold the president accountable for his actions. It is their duty to uphold the laws of the United States. So far, almost no Republicans have supported Congressional investigation which could lead to impeachment and removal from office. You can be sure that if a Democratic president had engaged in any of the actions that Trump appears to have taken, the Republicans would have investigated and impeached him/her long ago. During the 2016 campaign, there were Republicans saying that they would file articles of impeachment immediately after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as president, although it isn’t clear what grounds they thought they had. That Congressional Republicans are failing to hold Trump accountable only because he is a Republican is unconscionable and un-American.

What happens next? Who knows?

We are in uncharted territory.

Coming home to Comey news

Because I was out yesterday evening at Bruce Borton’s retirement party, I was blissfully unaware of the news about the firing of FBI Director Comey for several hours until I returned home to hours of breaking news coverage.

In the United States, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is appointed and confirmed for a ten year term in order to insulate the FBI from political pressures. While one past director was removed after a lengthy review process for violating policy, this is the first time that an FBI director has been summarily fired with no notice.

The stated reason is that Director Comey violated policy by revealing information last July and subsequently about the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. You can read the letter from the Deputy Attorney General here. I am not disputing that this was wrong. The irony is that Donald Trump touted Comey’s revelations on the campaign trail and paid him compliments on his bravery, all while his crowds were chanting, “Lock her up!” Are we really supposed to believe that the President fired Director Comey for behavior that he lauded for months?

Certainly, the timing and suddenness of the firing are suspicious. The administration did not even have the courage to fire Comey to his face. He literally saw the news on television before he was told.

My fear, which is shared by millions of Americans, is that Comey was fired in an attempt to derail the FBI investigation into Russian interference in US electoral process and governance. I have been alarmed about this for months now, and the alarm bells are ringing more loudly all the time.

I hope that there will be an independent commission to fully investigate this issue. The Congressional inquiries are hobbled by political divisions. The Attorney General has had to recuse himself, although he was also supposed to be recused about the Clinton email investigation but somehow was in on Comey’s firing over it. The future of the FBI investigation is now uncertain.

We deserve to know the truth about who was involved with Russian hacking and interference, either wittingly or unwittingly. Our national sovereignty and the integrity of our government are at stake.

Update on May 12, 2017:  The President said in an interview yesterday that he had already decided to fire Director Comey before meeting with the Justice Department officials, so the idea that he was being fired because of the Clinton investigation is bogus. Also, he said in the interview that the Russia investigation was connected to the Comey decision.

Open letter to the electors

Dear Members of the Electoral College,

On December 19th, you will meet to perform your Constitutional duty and elect the next president of the United States.

Your duty is to cast a vote for someone who is equipped to lead the country and ready to uphold and defend the Constitution, a person who has the support of the plurality of the electorate.

That person should be Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won the popular vote in the country by two percentage points, over two and a half million more votes than Donald Trump. The current electoral college system gives more weight to the votes cast in less populous states, as well as disregarding the votes for anyone but the winner in all states. This distorts the will of the people as a whole, which is why there has been a movement for electors to agree to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, even if their state voted for an opponent.

Even if you don’t believe that the largest number of votes should determine the winner of the presidency, electors have always been called upon to exercise judgment in their choice, to vote for a candidate who is qualified for office and who will put the country and its interests above party, personal gain, or foreign influence.

Consider this quote from the Federalist Papers (No. 68):

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men [and women] who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.

Electors are to cast their votes to protect the country from candidates who have been compromised by corruption, which, sadly, Donald Trump has exhibited in recent weeks.

I was already alarmed by Russia’s interfering with the campaign process, but it has become clear that Russia intervened specifically to elect Donald Trump. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this, or even to pledge to investigate further, is not worthy of the presidency, which needs to remain vigilant against undue foreign influence. Equally appalling is the fact that some of the Republican Congressional leadership opposed informing the American people about the level of threat of Russian interference in our election before the vote took place. These members of Congress put their party above the security and integrity of the American people and our electoral process. Trump is rewarding Senator McConnell by appointing his spouse to a Cabinet post. It also appears likely that Trump will choose Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State, whose main qualification seems to be his cozy relationship with Russia and Putin, centered around oil drilling.

Even for those who don’t respect or believe the assessments of the intelligence agencies of the United States, Trump’s staff and Cabinet appointments have been alarming. Despite running his campaign as a populist who understands working class concerns, he is stuffing the Cabinet with insiders and billionaires, some who have records of profiting from illegal or unethical business dealings. In a nation that prides itself on civilian leadership, there are three recently retired generals in major posts, including his pick for Defense Secretary who is ineligible to serve under current law because he has only been retired for three years.

Some staff and Cabinet appointees have exhibited extreme views. Steve Bannon comes to mind immediately. Several are antagonistic to the departments for which they are assigned, for example, an education secretary who is not a great supporter of public schools and a head of the EPA who has filed suit multiple times against the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma fossil fuel interests. Others just seem spectacularly unqualified for the posts to which they are nominated. Dr. Ben Carson is a good brain surgeon, but even he admits that he is not a trained administrator and has no expertise in public housing policy.

Beyond all of these issues, there is the problem of Trump’s refusal to disconnect himself from his business, setting up myriad conflicts of interest. Trump used his campaign to promote his business ventures and to enrich himself by renting space, his airplane, etc. to the campaign. Since the election, he has continued to mix business with his duties to the nation, even allowing his daughter and business partner to meet with a foreign dignitary.  Foreign governments and organizations have been using Trump properties in hopes of currying favor with the president-elect; prospects for projects for the Trump brand abroad have been smoothed. Even if Trump doesn’t let his business interests affect his decisions, his connection to his business and brand will affect business and government decisions made by others, both domestically and internationally.

Donald Trump also has a long history of legal problems. He has been sued countless times and been connected with wage theft, hiring of undocumented workers, and housing discrimination. He threatens to sue others frequently. He has flaunted his sexual behavior, including his infidelities, showing over and over that he abuses his power and position to ogle, touch, and assault women, as well as rate them on their looks, overlooking all their other attributes as people.

He has espoused clearly unconstitutional views, including discrimination on the basis of religion and the denial of birthright citizenship.

He has also lied – a lot. Some in his circle have even said that facts don’t matter and that whatever the president does is legal by virtue of the fact that the president is the one doing it.

All of this illustrates why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States.

An elector from Texas has publicly said he will not vote for Trump and suggests another Republican such as Gov. Kasich.  I applaud him for using his judgment as an elector to protect the country from Trump, but humbly suggest that he use his vote to reflect the winner of the national popular vote, including 3.8 million Texans, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there would be backlash if the electors choose Clinton on December 19th – and that her transition period would be very short, although she is well-prepared with policy positions and would be able to use the preparatory work that was done during her campaign to quickly put the major nominations in place – but it would save the country from the prospect of four years of corruption and interference from Russia that a Trump presidency would almost surely bring.

The electoral college was designed to prevent just such an occurrence, with the electors using their judgment and conscience to choose the most qualified candidate. In this instance, the electors have the backing of the popular vote count.

Please, Electors, for the good of the country, cast your votes for Hillary Clinton on December 19th.

Your fellow American,
Joanne Corey

What I am voting for

This election cycle in the United States has often focused on what people are voting against but I want to focus this last post before the election on what I am voting for.

I am voting for:

  • candidates who want government to work to uphold the common good and to “promote the general welfare” as our Constitution states
  • candidates who have experience working together with others to accomplish goals
  • candidates who understand science, law, and history and who articulate their policy positions clearly
  • the most progressive candidates who have a chance of being elected, which in my state means voting on the Working Families party line
  • ground-breaking women candidates, including Hillary Clinton for president and Kim Myers for Congress
  • candidates who accept the climate science concensus and who will take action to protect the environment
  • candidates who are at least as smart as I am

My state does not have early voting or voting by mail except in very limited circumstances, so I will be going to the neighborhood volunteer fire station to vote on Tuesday. I am very confident in the integrity of our voting process, with experienced poll workers from our town ensuring that only eligible voters cast ballots, in our case, paper ballots read by optical scanners.

I hope that all registered voters will vote in this election and accept the results. Most importantly, I hope that all people will come together in support of a government that works to pass and implement laws and budgets that respect and support human dignity and community.

Our Constitution begins with “We the people.” As a democracy, we are pledged to each other and called to cooperate with each other, regardless of our individual differences, “to form a more perfect union.”  Hyperindividualism, greed, prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry are destructive to our country.

The United States has a lot of healing to do. We had best start now.

[I am writing this at an (obnoxiously) early hour on Monday before launching into what is likely to be an intensely busy next few weeks with a lot of important transitions and events happening simultaneously. I considered disabling comments because I am not sure of being able to respond in a timely way. I decided to allow comments, but reserve the right to close or delete comments if they get out of hand.]

By the Seats of Our Pants

I am pleased to share this link: http://ragazine.cc/2016/11/by-the-seats-of-our-pantscreative-nonfiction/ to a piece of creative non-fiction by my friend Wendy Stewart.

Wendy and I share in two local poet groups. This piece began as a prompt in Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop convened by Heather Dorn. It has been my privilege to see Wendy’s piece evolve from those beginnings to its publication in Ragazine.

Enjoy!

meltdown

“Meltdown” seems to be the word most being used this weekend to describe the Trump campaign and its relationship with leading Republicans.

I admit to being puzzled.

Yes, a lewd recording of Donald Trump from ten years ago is now public, but there have been many other reports and recordings chronicling his horrid behavior and opinions about women readily available for decades. I don’t understand how anyone could be surprised by this new recording.

Supporters were apparently willing to ignore Trump’s sexual behavior and sexist attitudes until now; some still are.

I think that those who are now withdrawing their support are doing so because the recording shows predatory behavior and the attitude that, as a rich man, Trump feels entitled to sexual access to any woman he finds attractive, regardless of her own feelings. I am glad that people are finally standing up for women’s rights to be free from harassment and from being judged solely for their physical attributes. But why were they willing to look the other way for so many months?

Trump’s plan to fight back is apparently to attack Hillary Clinton over her reaction to her husband’s affairs at the debate tonight.

This is a bad idea.

Any spouse who has ever been cheated on will likely be offended by Trump’s attempts to hold Hillary responsible for having a cheating spouse. People who have been faithful to their spouse will not appreciate him denigrating her for staying in her marriage. Trump would also be calling attention to his own divorces, public affairs while still married, repeated treatment of women as trophies or pretty accessories on his arm, repeated mean, dismissive, offensive, and sexist comments, and his apparent inability to take responsibility for his own actions and attitudes.

Many of Trump’s advisers and Republican officeholders are warning him not to attack Hillary over Bill’s behavior, but Trump is not especially inclined to take advice.

I will be watching the debate tonight, although it may make me sick to my stomach.

debates

The first of the US presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tomorrow night.

What I would like is for the moderators of each debate to ask for specific policy positions on various topics from each candidate.

No generalities. No characterizing the opponent. No personality comments.

If a candidate strays from addressing the topic at hand, the microphone is cut off and they forfeit the rest of their time on that topic.

Everyone keeps lamenting that no one is concentrating on the issues, so let’s make all the debates issue-only zones.

Issues like climate change. Immigration reform. Health care. Trade policy. Diplomacy. Syria. Indigenous rights. Job creation. Income inequality. Education. Military spending. Veterans’ affairs.  War and peace. Civil rights. Justice system reform. Education. Social Security.

Each candidate giving his/her positions and plans. Period.

It would be a huge public service as we prepare to vote in this historic election.

SoCS: political views

During the primaries, I supported Senator Bernie Sanders, as his views aligned most closely with my own. Although he didn’t win the nomination, many of his views are reflected in the Democratic party platform. I now support Secretary Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

Due to family health issues, I haven’t written a political post since before the conventions, so I am going to use this post to catch up a bit.

In brief:  The Republican convention was dark and scary and portrayed the United States in a way that I couldn’t recognize. The Democratic convention was much more hopeful and positive with some amazing speeches. It was also historic as the United States finally has a woman nominated by a major party  for the presidency, 96 years after women gained the right to vote nationally.

I had thought – or maybe it was more hope than thought – that the campaign in the general election phase would be more focused on policy and debate. Secretary Clinton does have policy papers on her website and does regularly speak on policy, but a lot of the press coverage is swallowed up by more subjective things, such as likability – and whatever nonsense has just been propelled from the mouth of Donald Trump.

I am very disheartened by the hatefulness and the bullying and the crudeness of Donald Trump, which is too often echoed by his staff and supporters. I am also disturbed that facts don’t seem to matter. Although the press is finally being more consistent in pointing out when Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t line up with fact, there are now millions of people who believe the lies and cannot be convinced by factual evidence.

I do find some comfort in the polls which show that in state-by-state match-ups, Secretary Clinton is leading. I hope that the upcoming one-on-one debates will clarify for voters that only Clinton has serious plans to move the country forward and deal with the very real problems that our country and the world face.

It’s odd how stream of consciousness writing takes over. Linda’s prompt this week is “view” and I wasn’t intending to participate, but as I wrote the first paragraph of this post, the word “views” appeared and I decided I would run with stream of consciousness rather than a planned, edited post.

Two birds with one stone…
*****
Join us for Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2016/09/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-1016/.

 

Sanders’ support

I have posted several times about what I, as a supporter of Bernie Sanders, wanted as the formal nomination of Hillary Clinton approached.

Of course, there was a lot of public commentary/handwringing on what it would take for Sanders to put his support behind Clinton.

The Democratic party platform talks unfolded with Sanders’ supporters making the case for a more progressive approach on several major issues.

Amazingly, they prevailed in a number of areas and, last Tuesday, Senator Sanders appeared at a rally with Clinton and  gave his support for her to win the presidency and for the implementation of this more progressive agenda.

Importantly, the Democratic platform addresses many of the problems of lower and middle class folks, while the Republican platform still relies on “trickle-down” policies.

As the Clinton campaign slogan states, we really are “stronger together.”

That togetherness is not meant to be about Democrats, but about those of all political affiliations and those who aren’t voters. It’s meant for all races and all spiritual beliefs. It’s meant for all genders, all ages, all areas of the country.

We need togetherness now more than ever.

Bernie, Hillary, and the Democrats

As we are in the final days of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, with Secretary Hillary Clinton the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, there is a lot of talk about what the future relationship will be between the candidates, the party, and the Sanders supporters.

I am a supporter of Sanders and posted several weeks ago on some of the things that I wanted going forward.

I realize that Senator Sanders has already had a large impact on Secretary Clinton and the Democratic party. There are multiple issues, such as income inequality, campaign finance reform, and climate action, that would not have gained prominence were it not for Bernie’s leadership and strong, consistent voice.  The Democrats would be wise to heed the counsel of the Sanders supporters on the platform committee and commit to and campaign on progressive ideals. With luck, this will result in a Congress that will enact reforms and set the country back on a path where the common good is the guiding principle.

I have heard some commentators proffer that the proof of the pudding will be if Sanders can deliver his supporters to the Democratic party, but I don’t think that that is a good measure.  Yes, he needs to help convince his supporters to vote for Clinton and her running mate to avoid the catastrophic prospect of a President Trump – and to elect the most progressive Congress members possible so that new laws and budgets put the common good first – but those voters do not need to be registered as Democrats to do so.

Part of Bernie’s strength and consistency of message and values over his long political career is due to the fact that he has been an Independent. While he caucused with the Democrats, he did not have to contend directly with the party apparatus, until this run for the presidency. Because so many Americans agree with his ideas, his campaign exceeded all expectations, both in winning votes, delegates, and caucuses and generating excitement, volunteers, and individual, small-dollar donors.

I don’t think, though, that these voters necessarily need to become Democrats to continue to support Sanders’ ideas. I plan to remain an Independent, although I devoutly wish that my state will change to an open primary system so that Independents can vote for the candidate of their choice regardless of party.

My hope is that, while Sanders won’t be president, his ideals will be incorporated in the next administration, with Sanders taking a prominent role in leadership in the Senate.

I’ll still be “feeling the Bern!”