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426 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
President Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 19.
President Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 19. (Getty Images)

It was a mystery that left political reporters scratching their heads: Why was President Trump being so restrained in his comments about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were high school students?

The president’s comments about the accusations were amazingly … presidential. As late as Thursday, he told a rally in Las Vegas: "Brett Kavanaugh — and I'm not saying anything about anybody else — but I want to tell you that Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting.” He later added: "So we will let it play out, and I think everything is going to be just fine."

That was then, this is now. On Friday morning Trump tweeted this:

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  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
A plastic straw and pieces of a red balloon were found inside this dead shearwater bird.
A plastic straw and pieces of a red balloon were found inside this dead shearwater bird. (Denise Hardesty / via Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law that does very little, yet may actually affect more Californians than any other piece of legislation this year.

It has to do with disposable plastic straws, untold millions of which are used by Californians every day.

The new law, AB 1884 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), requires that food service providers hand out a single-use plastic straw only when someone asks for one. It’s not a ban, although it will certainly be characterized as one by plastic makers and their allies.

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Activists hold up signs as the L.A. City Council votes Tuesday to ban the sale and manufacture of fur products within city limits.
Activists hold up signs as the L.A. City Council votes Tuesday to ban the sale and manufacture of fur products within city limits. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to start the process of driving fur sellers out of the city, a move that delighted animal-rights activists while accomplishing, well, not much. 

The motion by Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell declares, “The fur industry is one that has consistently been associated with inhumane practices,” both in terms of “deplorable” living conditions and the shocking methods used to kill them without marring their pelts. It adds, “By eliminating the sale of new fur products, Los Angeles has the opportunity to promote a community awareness of animal welfare and to continue to lead in the field of progressive animal welfare reform.”

The city attorney will now draft an ordinance prohibiting businesses in the city from manufacturing or selling new garments, accessories and other products made from fur. That ordinance will then go to the council for review and, if passed, on to Mayor Eric Garcetti for his signature.

President Trump said the declassified material would reveal 'Big Stuff.'
President Trump said the declassified material would reveal 'Big Stuff.' (Alex Wong / AFP-Getty Images)

In announcing that President Trump had ordered the declassification of several documents related to the investigation of possible ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made it sound like there was no politics involved. 

The disclosures were designed, Sanders said, “for reasons of transparency” and to accommodate requests from Congress.

But Trump himself said the quiet part out loud. On Tuesday he approvingly tweeted a quote from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y): “What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there’s going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential campaign, which is unprecedented in our history.”

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

In the days and weeks to come, the question of whether a drunken, teenage Brett Kavanaugh did or didn’t  sexually assault Christine Blasey Ford is one that many members of Congress and the media will do their best to parse.

For others in the political world and the punditocracy, however, “did he or didn’t he” doesn’t seem to be the operating question.

Instead, there is a different query floating around the internet, expressed most directly on MSNBC today by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss:

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  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • The Swamp
Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (Associated Press)

In September 1999, as the race to succeed President Clinton was heating up and rumors were swirling about Republican candidate George W. Bush’s past indulgences, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed that probably seemed quaint even in its day. The piece by a pair of law-school academics, Steven Lubet and  Steven A. Drizin, recounted how the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952, Adlai E. Stevenson, defused a potentially explosive secret buried in his past by leveling with the reporter who dug it up.

The journalist, Time magazine’s William Glasgow, discovered that a 12-year-old Stevenson had shot and killed a friend at a Christmas party — an event that had gone unreported since it had happened 40 years previously. An inquest had determined that the shooting was accidental; nevertheless, Glasgow confronted Stevenson about it as he was preparing a cover story on the candidate for the magazine.

Here’s what happened, according to Lubet and Drizin: “There was never a doubt as to how the candidate would respond. His father and grandfather both had been elected to high office, and he would follow their examples of honesty and probity. ‘You know,’ he said to the reporter, ‘you are the first person who has ever asked me about that . . . and this is the first time I have ever spoken of it to anyone.’ Then he proceeded to explain all of the details in a quiet matter-of-fact way.”

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13.
A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13. (Chinatopix via AP)

President Trump announced Monday that he’s slapping a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of similar tariffs imposed earlier this year on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. Once the new tariffs are in place, Trump’s levies will apply to almost half the value of the products we buy from China.

Too bad the president doesn’t seem to understand who will pay these tariffs.

At an event earlier Monday, Trump talked about the trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada, then said, “China is now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs, and hopefully we'll be able to work something out.” That’s exactly backward. The tariffs Trump imposed on Chinese goods are paid by the businesses and consumers in this country that buy them.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens at his Senate confirmation hearing. (Christy Bowe / Globe Photos/Zuma Press)

Now that the woman behind a fuzzy, anonymous sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has gone public with her accusation, it must be taken seriously.  That means having the FBI look into it.  That also means the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who are so enamored with the persona they have created for Kavanaugh (He’s super smart! He loves his kids! He likes homeless people, too!) need to delay their vote on him.

Because even though this incident allegedly happened more than three decades ago, we still need to know more about it — and then a decision can be made.

The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is a Palo Alto University professor who trains graduate students in clinical psychology. She has offered details: a drunken teenage Kavanaugh allegedly pushing her into a bedroom and onto a bed, groping her, clapping his hand over her mouth when she tried to yell out. That doesn't make her story automatically true, but the details make the allegation serious enough to be worth investigating. 

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  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Judge Brett Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by an anonymous woman.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by an anonymous woman. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

Whether you support the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh or oppose it, you can only be disgusted by the way the Senate has handled — or mishandled — a last-minute allegation dating to his high school days. 

On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued this vague statement: “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

Feinstein may have had no choice but to go public at that point about what was later reported to be a letter alleging that the teenage Kavanaugh had held a girl down at a party and attempted to force himself on her.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
  • Rule of Law
Robert S. Mueller III's investigations team continues to work steadily and quietly while Washington's political institutions crumble.
Robert S. Mueller III's investigations team continues to work steadily and quietly while Washington's political institutions crumble. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Paul Manafort’s decision to accept a plea deal and cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election doesn’t really come as a surprise — having already been convicted on tax fraud charges, this was the smart move for Manafort, a former chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. From the public’s point of view, it’s most significant for the reassurance it offers: The political machinery in Washington may be in shambles, but the courts, and Mueller’s team, are holding firm.

I’m among those who believe President Trump has sought to obstruct justice, from his firing of FBI director James B. Comey to his threat to Mueller to not investigate Trump family finances. Congress, which is where you’d expect to find oversight — you know, checks and balances — has instead offered Trump cover. Adherence to law is secondary to congressional Republican leaders whose primary focus is hanging on to power.