Trump’s jeopardy


You never want to be the subject of a federal investigation.  Even if they can’t pin the crime they are investigating on you, they can convict you for your conduct during the investigation.  Remember Martha Stewart?  She was investigated for an illegal stock sale.  But there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that.  Nevertheless, she was sent to prison for obstructing the investigation.  Same with Scooter Libby, who was investigated for leaking information about CIA agent Valerie Plame.  That couldn’t be proven.  But Libby was convicted for lying to an FBI agent during the investigation.

David French is a major conservative critic of Donald Trump, but he doesn’t think he colluded with the Russians.  As an attorney, though, he warns Trump that he needs to be careful.  Offering to testify under oath about Come, for example, was not wise.  French brings up the Stewart and Libby examples and discusses the areas in which Trump is vulnerable.  No attorney, he observes, wants a client “who won’t stop talking.” [Read more…]

Gunman attacks Republican congressmen


Seventeen Republican congressmen, two senators, and various staffers, family members, and friends (26 in all) were practicing in an Alexandria park for the annual congressional baseball game.  (After the jump, see the complete list of who was there.)

A man approached, asking a departing lawmaker if the group were Democrats or Republicans.  He then went to the ball field, took out a rifle, and started shooting.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) was critically injured.  So was lobbyist Matt Mika.  Also wounded were Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, and two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Krystal Griner.

Though wounded, the officers–who were only there because Rep. Scalise as a House leader had a security detail–shot and killed the gunman.  If it weren’t for them, said Sen. Rand Paul who was on the field, it would have been a “massacre.”

The shooter was James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Illinois, was a liberal activist who posted on his FaceBook account, “It’s time to destroy Trump and company.” Details, including his various affiliations, can be found at Smoking Gun. 


Photo by  Zennie Abraham,  Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Flickr, Creative Commons License

[Read more…]

Shakespeare is pro-Caesar


Antony's funeral oration

New York’s summertime staple “Shakespeare in the Park” is performing the bard’s great tragedy Julius Caesar.   The production is in modern dress, and someone had the bright idea to portray the Roman strongman in a blonde wig, so that he looks like Donald Trump.   And (spoiler alert, as if anyone didn’t know) Caesar gets assassinated. So it looks as if Donald Trump is getting assassinated.

This has caused a big furor, with corporate sponsors dropping out and the public bitterly divided. Some people apparently like to fantasize about Trump getting killed. Trump supporters, of course, are outraged.

I would like to add a different perspective, though it means my coming out of retirement as a literature professor with a specialty in the age of Shakespeare.

The play Julius Caesar is pro-Caesar! Shakespeare, being a monarchist, creates sympathy for the usurper of the Roman Republic. The assassins are portrayed, though with Shakespeare’s usual empathy, as the bad guys. They all get killed at the end.

So a production of the play depicting Caesar as Donald Trump, unless it is completely rewritten, is going to support Donald Trump! [Read more…]

Elections bring chaos to UK, unity to France


Two European nations, the United Kingdom and France, held parliamentary elections, with radically different results.  The United Kingdom has a real political mess on its hands.  Whereas France has come together in a nearly unprecedented vote of national unity.

In the UK, the Conservative Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May was riding high in the polls.  So she called for a new election to increase her party’s majority as she negotiated the Brexit breakaway from the European Union.

But that was before England was attacked three times in three months by Islamic terrorists, and many voters wondered why the government had failed to stop them, especially since the perpetrators were known to authorities as potential terrorists.  Also May’s government put forward some unpopular proposals to save money, such as making the elderly and their families pay more for nursing home care, the so called “dementia tax.”

So in the new election that she called, May’s Tories were trounced, to the point of losing their majority, which is necessary to choose the prime minister!  They were 7 votes short, but a deal with the 10 delegates of Ian Paisley’s Northern Ireland party, the closest thing the UK has to a Christian right, keeps her in office.

But her party is furious with her and many Conservatives want a leadership change.  At her party’s insistence, May fired her two main advisors who came up with the bright idea of the dementia tax.  But she still may not last.

Meanwhile, France, which just elected the novice centrist Emmanuel Macron as president, voted for parliamentary representatives.  Macron didn’t run as a representative of any party, but he started a new one, the “Republic on the Move.”

It appears that his party, after the multiple rounds of voting are completed, may win as many as 400 of the 577 seats in Parliament!

Though he ran on a pro-European Union platform, Macron has appointed many conservatives to positions in his government.  And he has demolished the Left, long a fixture of French politics.  The Socialist Party of the recent President Hollande got only 10% of the vote, dropping its representation from 300 seats to 30.  Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant party, which some thought would defeat Macron just a few weeks ago, has dropped from 23% to 13%.

[Read more…]

Puerto Rico votes to become the 51st state


Puerto Rico held a referendum on whether the U.S. Territory should apply for statehood.  Voters overwhelmingly voted “yes.”

A half million voted for statehood, with 7,600 wanting independence and 6,700 wanting to stay a territory.  Three earlier referendums failed to reach any kind of majority, but that was before the severe economic crisis that Puerto Rico is struggling with today.

The referendum isn’t enough to make Puerto Rico a state.  Congress has to make that decision.

Prediction:  The next time the Democrats have a majority in Congress, they will make Puerto Rico the 51st state, being glad to have another state that will vote Democratic, and a Spanish-speaking one at that.

But, on the merits, do you think we should add Puerto Rico’s star to the flag?  Aren’t “territories” remnants of a colonial past that we really shouldn’t’ have anymore? [Read more…]

The Comey show


James Comey, the FBI director fired by President Trump, was interrogated in a congressional committee in a much-hyped event that gives ammunition to both Trump’s critics and his defenders.

Comey agreed that Trump was not under criminal investigation, that the Russian probe is a counter-intelligence matter.  MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews, a liberal who is no fan of Trump, said that the “collusion theory”–that Trump and his campaign had been conspiring with the Russians to throw the election–“comes apart” with Comey’s testimony.

We also learned that the leaker of Comey’s notes on his meetings with Trump was Comey himself.

But Comey also detailed Trump’s efforts to get him to stop the investigation of fired national security director Michael Flynn.  The obstruction of justice accusation is still very much alive.

What we mostly learned from Comey’s testimony–as he talked about Trump’s harangues, Trump’s “lying” about him, and the “awkward silence” when Trump demanded his loyalty–is what it’s like to work under a difficult boss that you don’t like and don’t respect.

[Read more…]