GOP: He’s guilty, so what, let’s acquit

Swamp Rabbit said he was worried about me. I wasn’t working today, and I hadn’t even ventured outside my swamp shack to pick a fight with someone.

“Stop watching that impeachment trial,” he said. “It’s turning you into a nut job.”

I told him it should make everyone nutty now that Republican senators, after three years of groveling before Donald Trump, have sunk to the point where they won’t even permit the appearance of a fair trial by voting to include witnesses and relevant documents. They’re telling us Trump was correct when he falsely claimed that Article II of the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.”

They’re agreeing with Alan Dershowitz, who signaled his approval of an imperial presidency by absurdly arguing that a quid pro quo entered into for personal gain by an elected official can’t be illegal so long as that official believes “his election is in the public interest.”

“I blame Claus von Bulow,” I said. “They made a movie about his overturned murder conviction, and the movie made that dirtbag Dershowitz look like a hero. It made him famous.”

“It ain’t just Dershowitz,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They’re all dirtbags. They’re all in the loop. Them senators and lawyers and Cabinet members, them yahoos in Wildwood, New Jersey who like Trump on account of he hates blacks and immigrants and tree huggers — they wouldn’t be propping up Trump if they wasn’t as rotten as he is.”

He’s right. John Bolton, the mustache behind the door, is too concerned about book sales to share his first-hand knowledge of Trump’s law-breaking before the so-called trial is over. Lamar Alexander and other Senate “moderates” have admitted they know Trump abused his power but say they’ll vote to acquit anyway.

Lisa Murkowski lamented the failure of the Senate — a failure in which she played a key role. And here’s Marco Rubio, who seems as stupid as he is gutless: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

I kicked my oatmeal bowl off the porch and into the swamp. “Rubio says removing a corrupt president isn’t in our best interest. He’s worse than Dershowitz.”

Swamp Rabbit opened a can of beer and chuckled. “I was where you’re at last week, Odd Man. It don’t do no good to get your blood pressure up. All you can do is vote the crook out of office in November.”

I reached for my oatmeal bowl before it sank. “He was impeached for trying to steal the election, and he’s getting away with it. What makes you think he won’t try again and not get caught next time?”

NYT to readers: Vote for both of them!

“This is pathetic,” I said after reading the editorial twice. “What’s going on at the New York Times?”

Swamp Rabbit looked confused. “How would I know? I ain’t no Manhattan neolib. I live in a shack in Tinicum swamp, just like you.”

I was genuinely confused. An endorsement, by definition, involves choosing one candidate over all the others. Why choose two, unless you’re trying to confuse your readers?

Swamp Rabbit took a minute to check the editorial then read aloud from it:

Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it. That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

Warren is the radical, you see, and Klobuchar is realistic. I couldn’t help wondering how often The Times‘s editorial writers venture outside their glass-and-steel tower, and how they’re defining their terms.

Warren is actually a New Deal-style Democrat, with beliefs and policy ideas similar to those of Bernie Sanders, a candidate the Times calls divisive and despises. Klobuchar is middle-of-the-road, a lot like Joe Biden but more bland and not as gaffe-prone. How her politics equates with realism is a mystery to me.

“They mean she’s a go-slow type,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They’re saying she can do what Warren wants to do, but without rocking the boat. Don’t make much sense when you think about it.”

I told him the Times editorial tells us more about the Times than it does about Warren or Klobuchar. The famed newspaper of record badly misjudged the mood of the country when it confidently endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. It still doesn’t understand Trump’s appeal. It’s hoping to get back some credibility by hedging its bets in 2020, by being all things to all people who aren’t Trump-loving troglodytes.

“Who cares about them editorial writers anyway?” the rabbit said. “They all work for corporations. I know bloggers who make more sense.”

I nodded in agreement. He said, “Don’t jump to no conclusions, I ain’t talking about you.”

Who’s more anti-Bernie? Too close to call.

Matt Taibbi’s succinct summary of Joy Reid’s most recent attempt at character assassination:

If you combine junk forensics and yellow journalism, you get this peak-stupidity moment by MSNBC – having a “body language expert” on to declare Bernie Sanders a liar.

What’s next from Reid? Maybe Sybil the Soothsayer from Sidney Lumet/Paddy Chayefsky’s Network to predict that Bernie’s election would result in the end of the world.

Swamp Rabbit thinks MSNBC is more blatantly anti-Bernie than CNN. I think it’s a tie.

Reporters face new restrictions during impeachment trial…

Security was heavily beefed up with at least 10 uniformed Capitol Police officers where there are usually one of two manning the so-called “Ohio clock corridor” just outside the Senate chamber. In the Senate basement, where reporters often wait to ask senators questions, at least a dozen officers gathered to enforce the new rules, which were set by the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, Michael Stenger. Stenger was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

All throughout the Capitol building, reporters were prevented from stopping to wait for senators or talking to them outside the designated media pens.

Administration considers new system for releasing key economic reports…

The Trump administration plans to restrict news media’s ability to prepare advance stories on market-moving economic data.

Currently, the Labor Department in Washington hosts “lockups” for major reports lasting 30 to 60 minutes, where journalists receive the data in a secure room, write stories on computers disconnected from the internet, and transmit them when connections are restored at the release time…

Lockups, which are permitted but not required by government regulations, have been a mainstay for U.S. media for almost four decades. They have been designed to give reporters time to digest figures on market-moving data and make sure they are accurate before distributed en masse to the public. Statistics agencies and central banks in the U.K. and Canada use similar lockup procedures.

If I lived in Iran, I’d hate us too

Swamp Rabbit wanted to know why Iran hates America, the beacon of democracy and the land of opportunity. “Just because,” I told him.

Iran hates us just because we overthrew its democratically elected prime minister and propped up the corrupt Shah (1953). Just because we backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, which cost more than a half-million lives (1980-1988). Just because we shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 people on board (1988). Just because we withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and doubled down on economic sanctions that have hurt millions of Iranian citizens.

And just because we took out Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful character in Iran and a national hero.

“What you mean by took out?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Did we wine and dine him?”

I told him “took out” is a U.S. military euphemism. It sounds cooler than “killed,” much less alarming than “assassinated” and not nearly as ugly as “murdered,” the word used by former New York Times reporter James Risen in an Intercept piece about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy.

“But Suleimani was a terrorist,” Swamp Rabbit said, playing devil’s advocate. “His posses killed hundreds of Americans.”

“Depends which side of the fence you’re on,” I replied. “If you’re in Iran or Iraq, you probably think Bush and Cheney are terrorists, and Petraeus and the other generals. How many people did they kill?”

“But Mike Pompeo said Suleimani was planning more attacks,” he said. “What’s the big deal about killing him?”

I told him President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations (1976). A current version of the ban is still in effect. Which means killing Suleimani was illegal. Which means we shouldn’t be outraged or even surprised if Iran blows up some high-ranking U.S. officials.

“But Pompeo said attacks were imminent,” Swamp Rabbit insisted. “And that this was — what you call it? — a targeted killing, not an assassination.”

“Pompeo is an Opus Dei member,” I replied. ‘He hates Iran for being a heathen country and thinks good Christians will continue to fight heathens right up to the Rapture. He thinks lying is okay if you’re lying for the Lord. His mascot Mike Pence feels the same way.”

Swamp Rabbit reached for his whiskey flask and drank deep. He was enjoying himself. “But them bosses in Iran are religious nuts, too. They got big chiefs called ayatollahs. Ayatollah means sign of God.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “The point is that America is run by bigoted hypocrites, just like Iran. It’s an open secret our news media will never acknowledge.”

“Well, no shit,” he said. Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

Footnote: Sure, the assassination ban is vague. Several presidents, including Barack Obama, argued that it doesn’t apply to targeted killings of “nonstate actors” — Osama bin Laden, for example. But Suleimani was definitely not a nonstate actor. If the ban doesn’t cover his case, it’s worthless.

A rogues’ gallery of impeachment foes

Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say. It reminded me that our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected there could be a rogue president. I don’t think they suspected we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.

That was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responding to news that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had taunted her for saying she won’t send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell and his gang help draft rules for the trial that both political parties can agree on.

“She’s exactly right,” I said to Swamp Rabbit, who was huddled near a space heater he stole from Home Repo. “There’s nothing in the Constitution or The Federalist Papers that says our system of checks and balances might be upended by a carnivorous rogue turtle. If Hamilton and the others had imagined McConnell, they would have warned us.”

“No, no, no,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “It ain’t just Turtle Man went rogue, it’s the whole Republican Party. “Every one of their Congress critters is pretending Trump’s impeachment ain’t real, that the law ain’t the law.”

I had to admit the rabbit had a point; that the party of Joe McCarthy, of Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew and Ronald Reagan, of law and order, of vigilance against anything Russian, is in effect saying Trump did no wrong when he threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine, our ally and an antagonist of Russia, unless Ukraine announced it would look for dirt on Trump rival Joe Biden. The Republicans are condoning Trump’s aborted attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into helping him get re-elected.

But it’s not too late, I told Swamp Rabbit. Pelosi and the Dems are still hoping for a better outcome. They want to be allowed to present pertinent documents and key witnesses at the trial.

The rabbit laughed. “Republicans ain’t gonna let that looney bird John Bolton testify under oath, or that dumb grifter Mick Mulvaney. They don’t want nobody to hear no more evidence. They just want to make sure Trump gets a quickie acquittal.”

Right. A quickie acquittal would cap Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, an outcome that suits Republican legislators, all of whom serve the “elites” and get rich in the process. They hated Trump at first but soon realized he was just what they needed — a dictator type who wows bigoted working-class white voters by appealing to their hatred of elites. (How’s that for irony?) They’re not going to let a little thing like impeachment mess up a good thing.

“They’re saying impeachment don’t mean nothing,” Swamp Rabbit said.

They’re saying worse than that, I told him. If inviting a foreign power to interfere with American elections isn’t an impeachable offense, then the entire Constitution “don’t mean nothing.”

Footnote: Did you check out the most recent Democratic debate? If history made sense, Democrats and the MAGA crowd would already be lining up to vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, two highly competent enemies of the elites. But history rarely makes sense except in retrospect, when the academic armchair quarterbacks pretend to know the cause and effect of all that happened.