Showing posts with label American President. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American President. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Republican’s Failure to Convict President Trump will Haunt the Party

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”
-Maya Angelou


The Republican Party had a choice to make and I hoped the party that abolished slavery and enabled the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, overriding a Democrat filibuster, would again rise to the occasion and do the right thing for their country.

Even though I support the Democratic party, I am one of their harshest critics. In fact, I have been critical of the way the Democrats behaved during the most of Trump years and said on numerous occasions that their constant hysteria and crying wolf were detrimental to winning over a majority of voters.

It was wrong for Democrats to publicly call for the President's head, days after he won the 2016 election. Democrats were misguided in the amount of time and taxpayer money they wasted on investigating every aspect of the President’s public and private life in a bid to remove him from office through any means possible.

Also, I did not agree with the Democrat’s first impeachment of President Trump, for his call with the Ukrainian President. On the call Mr. Trump clumsily tried to pressure President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son. What Mr. Trump did was wrong and reprehensible, but did not rise to the level of impeachment. President Zelensky himself stated that he never felt pressure from Mr. Trump, or his administration, to investigate Hunter Biden. Further, the absence of any evidence pointing to a broader conspiracy or direct orders from the President to members of his administration, is the reason Democrats failed to convince a majority of voters. 

Impeachment should not be used frivolously or as a tool for political vengeance. In this instance a whistleblower had come forward to alert Congress of the President’s inappropriate behaviour. So, one can argue that the checks and balances worked, making a partisan impeachment, unnecessary. It is also fair to ask that if the media and elected leaders had not been so fully consumed and distracted by the impeachment trial last January, would we have paid more attention to the coronavirus pandemic that was just starting?

In Trump’s defense, conservatives argue that the mainstream media has shown an open bias and complete lack of objectivity when covering Mr. Trump and his administration. A Harvard study concluded that the media set “a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”

Another double standard that is cited by conservatives is the fact that the media does not devote the same time and attention calling out Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters, who urged people to seek out and harass Trump staffers. Or liberal protestors who menacingly confronted Republican lawmakers that voted to confirm Justice Kavanaugh. They also point out that there was no outcry when Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer publicly threatened Justices Gorsuch and Kavanagh over their views on abortion. Republican Senator Ben Sasse summed up this double standard saying; “Think about it: "If a Republican threatened Justice Sotomayor or Justice Ginsburg, it would be the biggest story not just in Washington but all across America.” 

To be clear, I am not defending Mr. Trump and have always said that he is a reprehensible conman and unprincipled charlatan. The point is that finding a president distasteful and his views vile does not mean we get to hold him to a different standard. We must never have a set of standards for people we like, and a different one for those we disdain. The health of our democracy relies on a doctrine of fairness and equal treatment for all.

Just as I will call out the mainstream media for their lack of fairness and Democrats for bad behavior, I refuse to absolve Mr. Trump’s reckless abdication of duty, leading up to and after the election. The facts in this case are strong.

For months Mr. Trump made it clear that he would refuse to accept the election results if he lost. As early as June last year he claimed that the election was going to be rigged and he tweeted: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” and proceeded to use the word “rigged” more than 75 times in tweets between May and October. Based on this evidence alone it is hard to refute that the president was clearly laying the groundwork for his lies in the event that he lost the election.

After it became clear that he had lost, the President was within his rights to legally challenge the election results. In 2000, Mr. Gore refused to concede to Mr. Bush until December 13, after there had been a full recounting of votes in Florida and after weeks of legal battles.

Trump’s lawyers filed a record 62 lawsuits contesting the results, of which 61 were dismissed. Their lawsuits were thrown out for lack of evidence because Trump’s team based their allegations on a single person's account and offered no corroborating evidence. In other instances suits were dismissed for ‘lack of standing’. These dismissals were universal and came from 86 different judges, both Democratic and Republican-appointed, and included scathing rebukes from at least nine federal judges appointed by Trump.

Whether you agree with Mr. Trump’s legal challenges or think them frivolous, we cannot deny the president due process. However, what the former president does not have the right to do, and it amounts to abuse of office and dereliction of duty, is to perpetuate lies about the election being stolen and claiming widespread voter fraud, without offering a shred of evidence.

Trump and his legal team also spent weeks making false statements and spreading conspiracy theories on various media channels and in press briefings. The president’s statements were clearly designed to inflame passions. He repeatedly called on supporters to fight and refuse to give up. Not only did he urge them to “fight” but even told them when and where to show up, tweeting on December 19: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” “Be there, will be wild!

The president cannot feign ignorance about the consequences of his rhetoric prior to the Capital riots. Leading up to January 6, there had been instances of armed protestors surrounding the homes of elected officials. Georgia’s Secretary of State, a Republican, received death threats, with people texting him saying that he deserved to face a firing squad. Numerous Republican officials also warned Mr. Trump that his rhetoric was dangerous and would lead to real violence, but he chose to ignore them and continued to fan the flames.

Not only did president Trump refuse to tone down his rhetoric but he proceeded to violate federal and state election laws by attempting to pressure Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, begging him to overturn the election results by finding him 11,870 votes.

Democratic impeachment managers did a good job making their case but one thing I didn’t agree with is that the evidence showed that president Trump directly incited a ransacking of the Capitol. He did however, direct an angry mob to march towards the Capitol building and encouraged them to put pressure on the Senate and the Vice President to overturn the election results.

Trump’s subsequent silence and refusal to take action after the assault was underway, and it was clear that lives were in danger, showed that he was willing to let the violence continue in a bid to up the ante. We know that desperate calls from lawmakers in his own party, urging the president to call off his supporters, fell on deaf ears. At one point, Mr. Trump told House minority leader Kevin McCarthy that rioters seemed more upset about the election than he was. Hours later, when he reluctantly issued a public statement, after being forced by advisors and family members, he still ended the day with a tweet praising the rioters and sending them love.

Some years ago, I explained why the party of Lincoln had come to reside in Donald Trump’s trousers. When the party started to welcome conspiracy theorists and extremists into their ranks, with the naïve belief they could control these forces, they began a process that lead to a hostile takeover by Mr. Trump and now by acquitting him they have sealed the fate of the Grand Old Party.

However, we must not forget the ten Republican congresswomen and men who voted to impeach despite grave personal and political risk. They have been censured by their party and are getting death threats. Seven Republican Senators also followed their conscience and put country before party. No Democrats have ever voted to convict a president from their own party.

So, while this may feel like a victory for president Trump it is not, because seventeen brave women and men made it clear that Mr. Trump no longer has an absolute hold on their party.

 

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Case to Fire Donald Trump

                                                                (Image: YellowHammer.com)

 “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

In mid-March, America and South Korea had the same number of Covid-19 deaths; around 90. Now, in late August, South Korea had a total of 306 deaths, while America has crossed 170,000 deaths. It is true that United States has a larger population, but the fact is that with 6 times the population of South Korea our Covid-19 deaths are more than 15 times higher.

Nobody can blame Donald Trump for Covid-19, or for being caught flat-footed like every other global leader. Even President Moon Jae of Korea admitted that his government had a poor early response and apologised to Koreans, but then swung into action and did what was necessary to save lives. That America continues to have 40,000+ new cases and around 500 deaths every day, six months into this crisis, can only be attributed to a failure of leadership.

In February this year, I put Mr. Trump’s chances of re-election at 95% because the economy was strong. We may never settle the argument on whether Mr. Trump’s policies led to the last few years of economic expansion, low unemployment and historic wage growth or if they were a result of President Obama’s policies, but we cannot deny Mr. Trump credit for not messing it up.

However, the economic picture now is starkly different from February of this year. In the second quarter US GDP shrank 32.9% on an annualized basis, making it the worst contraction since record-keeping began in 1947. The economy is in freefall, small businesses are shuttering in record numbers and we are facing the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.

I hold no grudge against people who voted for Mr. Trump and agree that Hillary Clinton was a horrible alternative. The Democratic Party in 2016 offered no vision for Americans hurting from the job loss and chronic unemployment which contributed to the opioid epidemic that devastated working class families across the country.

I have also spent time listening to people who felt that they needed to vote for Mr. Trump in 2016. Many independent voters say they liked the fact that he was unscripted and did not sound like every other Stepford politician, even though none liked his lack of civility. This is also why many two-time Obama voters held their nose and voted for Trump in swing states. The fact remains that he was the only politician who spoke to Americans feeling forgotten by both parties.  It is a group Mrs. Clinton chose to ignore. Many of these voters were tired of out-of-touch political elites in both parties, and they decided that Mr. Trump was a risk worth taking. In 2016 Mr. Trump was an unknown quantity in politics, albeit a larger than life reality TV personality, but three years on he has a track record in Washington.

Democrats too have shown a lack of maturity. Many prominent Democrats made it clear after their election defeat that they were going to do everything in their power remove President Trump from office. Since then the opposition has cried wolf numerous times, claiming Mr. Trump was about to start a nuclear war with North Korea and then a conventional one with Iran. Many Democrats have spent much energy looking for reasons to impeach him.

I am not excusing Mr. Trump’s behaviour or actions. I expected the opposition to spend less time expressing outrage at every tweet, acting like the moral police and focus instead on holding the President accountable for tangible actions that have been damaging to Americans. It does not help that Democrats operate in a perpetual state of hysteria, often coming across more like brats, kicking and screaming every time something does not go their way - for instance, the Speaker of the House, ripping up the president’s State of the Union speech, on live TV.

I am a liberal but one who has always called things like I see them, on both sides. We are now in the midst of a global crisis of the magnitude we have not seen since WWII. It no longer matters if you hate Democrats or love President Trump; this election is not about politics as usual. Our livelihoods, the lives of your family, my neighbours and the future of our children are at stake.

Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Oman and Singapore have contained the virus and re-opened their economies. America is the wealthiest nation on earth. We have the foremost scientific minds, coupled with access to unrivaled technology and resources. Why have we failed to contain the virus, continuing to see the highest cases and deaths in the world?

As long as America relies on a patchwork of responses cobbled together at the state level, we lose. As long as states are forced to bid against each other for PPE and test kits, we lose. As long as we travel across state lines and refuse to obey quarantine rules, we lose. As long as we continue to flout the advice of health experts, we lose. The longer we allow this virus to run rampant through our divisions, the longer our children suffer social isolation, the more likely they are to fall behind academically in ways that will negatively impact them for life.

We need one plan, not fifty, along with a national Covid task force that ensures medical equipment, testing kits, lab capacity, medical personnel and other resources are deployed when and where they are needed. This is the only way to contain the spread until we have a vaccine; which is still 18-24 months away. We also need continuous monitoring to catch and stop new outbreaks; we know these will continue to occur until there is herd immunity.

President Trump has shown that he is incapable of doing the two things that will help us navigate this crisis: listen to experts and develop a cohesive national plan.

Any president, who abhors details, believes he is smarter than experts and claims that this virus will simply “disappear”, is either not competent or worse, does not care enough to lead us. Waiting for a vaccine is also not an option. The fastest the world has developed a stable vaccine is in four years. Even the most optimistic scenarios suggesting vaccine availability early next year do not consider the additional time it will take to test safety and then to immunise at least 80% of our population to achieve herd immunity.

Consider that the majority of small businesses have less than one month of cash reserves on hand. Small businesses are not just the fabric of our local communities but they form the heart of America’s economic engine. They account for almost 50% of jobs in the private sector, and for the majority of job creation in the country. Some estimates say that up to 43% will close permanently if we are unable to help them survive the next few months.

The knock-on effect of small business closures will devastate America from county to coast. If we fail to save them, and allow the most apocalyptic predictions to occur, we will look back on 2020 as a good year. The unemployment, homelessness and food insecurity that will result from this failure will make the Great Depression seem like a minor hardship. We can prevent and ensure businesses stay open, but this is not possible as long as we remain in a perpetual state of crisis that forces them to keep shutting every few weeks due to preventable local surges.

We can all agree that Joe Biden does not light a zoom on fire, and he even ambles into a room. If he wins, he will enter office at the age that Ronald Regan left, and at 78 years will become our oldest president. But few people have a deeper understanding of the mechanics of our government, or experience working with both sides of the aisle to get things done. Now more than ever we need to find bi-partisan compromise that leads to action.

The stalemate in Congress is not an option at a time when our economy is falling off a cliff. Millions of Americans are facing the prospect of long-term unemployment, eviction from their homes and are unable to feed their families. President Trump has had ample time to show us his legendary deal making abilities and has failed to do so. The businessman who declared bankruptcy six times, frankly, seems bankrupt on ideas for how to deal with this crisis.

 Mr. Biden was the man responsible for cajoling Republican votes to pass the 2009 Recovery Act, and was entrusted by President Obama to supervise its implementation. Those who fear the Bernie wing of the party’s undue influence in a Biden administration should keep in mind that Mr. Biden is not a progressive, and failed all their inane purity tests. He recently also shut out the progressive wing of the party during the DNC convention, and has re-iterated this with his moderate VP pick of Kamala Harris. Further, Mr. Biden is wise enough to understand that there is no question of implementing ambitious plans like the Green New Deal or an overhaul of our healthcare system, if there is no US economy to overhaul. Joe Biden understands that now is not time for revolution. Right now our country needs steady, sturdy and consistent.

Mr. Biden does not have a fancy Ivy League degree. He spent thirty years commuting by local train, was a single father and has suffered tremendous personal loss. He genuinely seems to empathise with the plight of average Americans in ways that his party’s elite cannot, and that President Trump is incapable of. Politicians can fake almost everything but not empathy. So while he may not be anybody’s ideal candidate, no rational person can deny that even with his perceived limitations and human faults, he is far better suited to navigate this health and economic crisis than the incumbent in the Oval Office. At least he cares.

Americans have always managed to rise above political differences and come together to defeat a common enemy. Even politicians cross party lines to do the right thing for the country. President Johnson, a Democrat, counted on support from senate Republicans to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, after Democrats tried to filibuster and block its passage. Republicans joined Democrats to draft articles of impeachment against President Nixon. Al Gore disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict but still conceded to George W. Bush, “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.” In past elections too we have seen Americans cross party lines, like the Reagan Democrats and Republicans who voted for Obama in 2008.

Pessimists will say that this was in the past, and that we are too divided to come together. They might be surprised to learn that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, negotiated a deal in the absence of a national testing strategy, with three Republican and four Democrat Governors to develop and deploy a rapid testing strategy across their seven states.

We will have many more elections to indulge in our petty bickering and partisan fights, but right now, we need to elect a president who will make a genuine effort to bring us together, not one who relishes stoking divisions and takes pleasure in pitting us against each other. If we choose to re-elect a man who refuses to listen to experts and is incapable of empathy, then the coronavirus will win and we will all lose.

Before you walk into a voting booth or mail your ballot, ask yourself if E pluribus unum is merely a phrase on a seal, or a motto that still reflects our national character and shared values.

 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Why I disagree with Howard Schultz’s Decision Not To Run in 2020

 
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaking at an event. (Image: John Hanna/AP)
"When nothing is sure, everything is possible." 
Margaret Atwood 

I have always admired and respected Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, for the way in which he built a great global company. One that espouses purpose and giving back as things that are not just words in some corporate manifesto, but in tangible ways that impact lives of employees and people within the communities they serve. Starbucks under his leadership has never just talked the talk. 

So I was excited when he announced that he was exploring running as an independent candidate for President United Sates of America. I have written why I believe that an independent candidate running in 2020 is not just a good idea to help re-invigorate liberalism but also necessary to save our democracy from extremists on both sides who currently dominate and drive the conversation. I believe it is necessary to awaken the silent majority. 

So I was saddened to get his email explaining his decision to give up, even before he started this important fight. I understand that in the interim Mr. Schultz suffered a serious back injury and had to undergo multiple surgeries which have prevented him from travelling, and limited his outreach, but he does not cite the injury as the reason for not moving forward.

On the contrary, throughout his email he talks about the reasons an independent candidate should be running. He talks about the fact that we currently have a situation where Democrats and Republicans have consistently put party over country, perpetuated divisiveness and gridlock, failed to solve big problems and the “American people are more united than our leaders, and we deserve better.” 

A CBS news poll finds that by margins of more than two to one, Democrats are looking for someone who will unite the country, rather than push for more liberal policies. This 70% of democratic voters is a whopping majority, and not a small number. The same poll found that, contrary to the angry voices who dominate social media, eighty-two percent of democratic voters want someone “who expresses a hopeful tone about the potential of the country” to counter Trump’s vitriol and divisiveness, not someone who will offer more of the same but on the left. Further, it finds that in early primary states, “a notable two-thirds said they want a nominee who would work with Republicans to get things done once in office.” 

There is much data that shows that Mr. Schultz is correct about the fact that our country is more united than the hopelessly divided picture that is painted in the mainstream media, through the narrow prism of social media and by divisive politicians in both parties. 

Consider that even on the most polarising issues, there is overwhelming consensus on both sides of the aisle when it comes to voters. A Yale University study that has been tracking beliefs about climate changes for the last five years finds that 73% of Americans believe that global warming is real, 69% are worried about it and 62% believe it is being caused by human activity.

Another Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of respondents (66%) support stricter gun laws and 97% support universal background checks. Further, 83% agree with a mandatory waiting period before someone is able to purchase a firearm and 67% support an all-out assault weapons ban. This commanding majority also agrees that it is too easy to buy a gun (67%) and three-quarters believe that “Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.” 

There is already common ground on which practical and sensible solutions can be built, even on the most divisive and polarising issues. Unfortunately common sense and unity do not make for stories that drive great ratings, clicks or create drama in a field of twenty-plus candidates. 

More in Common, a nonprofit that reaches across political divides, has found that even though we hold dissimilar views on numerous issues, more than three in four Americans believe that “our differences aren’t so great that we can’t work together.”  

They have also found clear evidence of an "exhausted majority” that Mr. Schultz refers to in his email. This majority is sick and tired of the political polarisation and constant focus on our divisions versus on the values that unite us. Their report states that people share a deep sense of gratitude that they are citizens of the United States. They want to move past our differences.”

Amanda Ripley writes in the Washington post about research showing that the ideal candidate that voters are looking for is not a person with all the answers and policy solutions. The fact is that most people are pragmatic and understand that no one person, or party, can provide all the answers. Also, they don’t trust politicians to follow through on their promises. 

They are looking for a candidate who understands their realities. “When people feel understood, they become more willing to hear different ideas”. The research finds that people are more willing to listen to a person who can recognize and acknowledge their struggles, even if they disagree with a candidate’s specific policies and solution.

Given this I truly believe that it will be nearly impossible for a candidate from either party to appeal to this important silent majority that has the power to break the will of the vociferous minority. At a time when Congress’s approval rating hovers in the high teens and disapproval remains steady at 79% according to the latest Gallup poll, and more than two-thirds of Americans have little or no confidence in the federal governmentwe will need someone who can break this status quo. I believe that someone needs to be an independent candidate. 

Barack Obama was such a candidate. The fact that he was an unknown and political novice made his appeal cut across partisan divides and gave people the hope that neither Senator McCain nor Senator Clinton was able to offer. Once again in 2016 voters rejected ALL the establishment candidates and chose another outsider, albeit of a very different stripe. 

Another reason it is important for an independent candidate to run is because the presidential primary process is flawed. By only allowing registered voters to participate, versus the entire electorate, it allows a small, vociferous minority in the base to dictate terms and drive the outcomes. Historically, voter participation in the primaries hovers at less than 20%. 

Hamstrung by this reality, candidates are unable to speak to the broader electorate, or posit solutions that break with their party’s positions on issues. They must pander to their extremes. We saw the disastrous results of this strategy unfold in the 2016 Republican primaries that enabled Donald Trump to lead a hostile takeover of the party of Abraham Lincoln. I fear the same will thing will happen to Democrats by time the field of twenty candidates is winnowed. 

Irrespective, the damage with the silent majority is already done because candidates cannot unsay and undo the partisan, polarising and extreme views and positions they have taken during the primaries and suddenly transform into people who can cut across political divides. Mr. Schultz identifies this danger and says he is worried about “far-left policy ideas being advanced by several Democratic candidates” and rightly believes it will serve to further alienate voters.”  

The irony is that he closes by saying that the silent majority has been drowned out by vitriolic extremes and “has largely tuned out of political life online and in the news, leaving the extreme voices to define the debate.” Yet, rather than offer a reason for this majority re-engage and lead the charge in taking back control of our national debate, he chooses to step out of the arena and makes a plea for us to find “the best of ourselves on the national stage, and to the world”. 

I understand that running for President is not an easy decision and it is a deeply personal one that will involve dragging oneself and one’s family though the mud of modern day media. So I do not think less of him or judge Mr. Shultz for choosing not to proceed.

Given where we are today in our one-sided political debates and with the dearth of leadership in both parties, I believe the risk of an independent candidate running at the cost of re-electing President Trump, is one worth taking.

As long as private citizens like Mr. Schultz and Mr. Bloomberg who have the means to finance national campaigns, unlike the rest of us, choose not to be the “man (or woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood” we will not be able to break the two-party stranglehold on our democracy.