Election billed as referendum on Trump goes for the Republican


When Georgia congressman Tom Price was named Secretary of Health and Human Services, that opened up a congressional seat and called for a special election.

Democrats thought that the suburban Atlanta district, which went for Trump by a tiny margin, was winnable.  They found an attractive candidate, Jon Ossoff, to run against the Republican Karen Handel and, with the help of out-of-state groups, poured $22 million into supporting him.  Handel spent $14 million, making this the most expensive congressional race in history.

Democrats sought to turn the election into a referendum on Donald Trump and a herald of next year’s midterm elections.

Pollsters saw a close race.  But when it was over, it wasn’t close at all.   The Republican Handel won by 5 percentage points.

If this was a referendum on Trump, the voters are still supporting him.  And if this is a foretaste of the midterm elections, Trump may be in better shape than his poll numbers suggest. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

Trump undercuts his travel ban defenders

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President Trump’s restrictions on travelers from terrorist-supporting countries was thrown out by the courts.  So new restrictions were drawn up that avoided the court’s objections.  It too was thrown out, so now the ban is being taken up by the Supreme Court.
Once again, though, President Trump is his own worst enemy.  He fired off tweets criticizing his own people for “watering down” the first executive order, which his staff revised in an effort to get his ban approved.  Furthermore, the president tweeted reasoning that undercuts the arguments being made by his own Justice Department, which is trying to defend Trump’s ban before the courts.

[Read more…]

Should we sell off half the oil reserve?

The federal government has stockpiled a massive amount of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  The purpose is to have an oil supply to keep the country going in the event of an emergency or shortfall (as in the Mideast Oil Embargo that was slapped on the United States back in 1973 for supporting Israel).

Now, as part of his budget proposal, President Trump wants to sell off half of the oil reserve.

Dumping such a large amount of oil into the market would send prices plummeting, which would not be good for America’s oil industry, which is finally recovering from the price fall of the last few years.  (So much for accusations that Trump serves the interests of big business.)  Consumers would presumably be happy, paying even less than today’s low prices.

Some are saying that America’s shale is a de facto oil reserve, though it would take time to ramp up production in an emergency.

Do you think Trump’s proposal is prudent, a good way to raise revenue to help make up for our budget deficit?  Or is it imprudent, like spending your savings account?
[Read more…]