The Week of Saturday, February 1 through Friday, February 7, 2020 [#29]
The Week’s Most Notable:
It was a bad week for Demos – Democrats, democracy, and in Greek, the people. From the Iowa debacle, to the Trump acquittal, and by week’ s end the beginning of Trump’ s revenge, we saw a dispiriting panoply of political failure. As is often the case these days, some of the details were a surprise; but most of what happened was of a piece and anticipated. It turns out, failure of the vote tally software in Iowa didn’t surprise some people, but the failure of the organizers to plan effective backup looked and was very bad. Democracy was poorly served. Wednesday’ s pusillanimous GOP vote in the Senate to acquit Trump was long expected but then Mitt Romney’s stunning cri de courage was an unexpectedly significant detail because it robbed the Trump narrative of a claim to purity. Yet, as expected, Trump immediately launched his exoneration crusade, claiming complete innocence while at the same time beginning to crush his perceived enemies with further abuses of his power.
In any case, the principal impeachment saga is over. Elements of it will be carried forward: The House will continue investigating, Democratic campaigning must never let Republicans off the hook for what they have done, and Trump will continue to generate impeachment-worthy offenses. The final test is, as it arguably always has been, the general election.
Saturday, February 1
[Middle East] Arab Foreign Ministers Reject Trump Peace Plan – Basically, no Palestine participation, no peace plan. As expected, the Trump/Kushner plan is DOA except for domestic Israeli and U.S. politics.
Sunday, February 2
[Coronavirus] Coronavirus Related Travel Restrictions – The U.S. government and several other countries have begun imposing travel restrictions intended to contain the spread of coronavirus. Most of these restrictions pertain to China and the travel of foreign nationals.
[Impeachment Trial] Key GOP Senators Tip Trump Acquittal – Although there had been some bait and switch over the past couple of weeks, most of the key GOP senators, such as Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, have indicated they will not vote for Trump’s conviction.
Monday, February 3
[Election 2020] Iowa Caucuses Have No Results – To the astonishment of candidates, the media, and voters, something went very wrong with the tabulation of caucus results. In fact, a key piece of software newly introduced to tabulate results failed catastrophically. Worse yet, a backup plan to collect results by phone also failed. Even worse, the officials charged with managing the caucuses failed to keep the public and the media abreast of difficulties, leading to a cascade of conspiracy theories and much righteous anger. It required two days before even partial results were reported. Apparently Buttigieg and Sanders shared top numbers. Trump and the GOP found the Democratic incompetence irresistible.
[Impeachment Trial] Anticlimactic Closing Arguments – Since there was nothing new in the first round of about four hours of closing arguments, and since the outcome was already assured, attempts at stirring rhetoric fell on deaf ears or, in the case of a television audience, hardly any ears at all.
Tuesday, February 4
[State of the Union] Trump’s Speech Becomes Reality Show Political Rally – In a deft turn of staging, the usually serious State of the Union became a recitation of the Trump administration’s biggest hits, Democrats’ awful socialism, and all the reasons why Trump should be reelected. Inscrutably labeled as the “Great American Comeback,” TV ratings dropped by 10 million this year.
[State of the Union] Pelosi Literally Rips Trump’s SOTU Speech – Once in a while, Democrats can capture a meme in a gesture. The recording of House Speaker Pelosi tearing up the script of the speech practically got more attention than the speech itself. Mission accomplished.
[Gallup Poll] Trump Job Approval Reaches 49% – According to the Gallup poll, this was the highest rating Trump has received since taking office. The Gallup percentage remains an outlier among polls.
Wednesday, February 5
[Impeachment Trial] Senate GOP Acquits Trump – There was almost no drama in the expected acquittal of President Trump on both articles of impeachment. However, on one article, Abuse of Power, one Republican voted for Trump’s conviction. Mitt Romney, one of the most consistent flip floppers on Trump policy and behavior, held true to his beliefs and condemned Trump. His vote didn’t change the outcome, but it ruined the Trump “perfection” narrative. For this, Romney (the 2012 GOP nominee for president) will be pilloried and calumnized by his former friends. His moment could be seen as both a high point and low point of American politics.
[Puerto Rico] Trump Threatens Veto – Any $4.7 billion aid package to help Puerto Rico recover from over 2,000 recent earthquakes faces a Trump veto. (The island has yet to receive all the aid approved by Congress for Hurricane Maria recovery.) [Update: The House passes the aid package on Friday.]
Thursday, February 6
[Coronavirus] Death Toll Rising – As the spread of coronavirus gathers headlines, the death toll has already exceeded that of the SARS epidemic.
[Trump Reprisal] New Yorkers Denied “Trusted Travelers” Program – The evils of sanctuary cities stressed in Trump’s State of the Union speech was immediately translated into action by punishing travelers from New York (a sanctuary city). Other such cities have yet to be similarly targeted.
[Trump Reprisal] Republican Senators Ask Secret Service for Hunter Biden Records – As an enduring element of impeachment reprisal, Trump/GOP are keeping the “Biden investigation” in the public eye. It may prove ironic, as Joe Biden’s presidential star seems to be fading.
Friday, February 7
[Trump Reprisal] Trump Fires Vindman, Sondland, and Others –Although Mike Esper, Secretary of Defense, promised Lt. Col. Vindman that he would face no retribution for testifying in the House impeachment investigation, Trump not only fired him and his brother, but had them escorted out of the White House under guard, a gesture the military will not soon forget.
[Trump Reprisal] Trump Victory Lap: “I Did Nothing Wrong!” – At a more than usually surreal White House event to celebrate his acquittal, Trump let the world know what he thinks: “It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops.” Democrats are “evil” for impeaching him. His political opponents are “scum,” “sleaze bags,” and “crooked people.” It was all “bullshit.”
[Election 2020] Democrats Debate Before New Hampshire Primary – Despite concerted attacks on Pete Buttigieg, the putative front runner, the debate stuck mostly to issues. (Note: Only three Iowa caucus winners have been elected president.)
The first tiny temblors of recognition appeared in the media for what may be the outcome of the Democratic primaries: Michael Bloomberg, nominee (with a woman and/or person of color for VP). Super Tuesday, March 3, isn’t far off. If the run-up primaries don’t produce a definitive candidate, then the winner of that massive vote count (15 states, 36% of the total delegates) – especially California and Texas – will not only grab the limelight but a potentially dominant delegate count. Based on polls and the millions of dollars spent on campaign advertising, that candidate is Bloomberg. Think about that.
Did the impeachment process damage Trump (enough)? Among Trump’s tribe it confirmed their narrative that the liberals were out to get him. The Fox News bubble hardened into pure contrarian propaganda. His support remained relatively steady and may even have ticked up slightly at the end. For everyone else, although it’s been obvious from the beginning that he would not be convicted, either in court or in the Senate, the pattern of escapes has been depressing. Yet – and this is important – the years of investigation and the impeachment process have generated a catalog of potentially compelling charges, backed by evidence. What’s lacking, so far, has been a delivery method that will pound the most effective charges into the public consciousness.
Now that it’s over, what if the American public – the voters – don’t give a damn about anything involving impeachment? Beating a dead horse comes to mind. What many Democrats argue is that we need above all a return to the issues that were the most effective in the 2018 midterm elections, such as healthcare, education, and economic inequality. Then there is corruption, the bridge issue between the impeachment era and contemporary events. Finding the right mix will be, should be, the number one campaign objective for Democrats.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]
Quote of the Week
“[Susan] Collins had made a splash by voting in favor of calling witnesses during the Senate’s impeachment trial. We live in times when agreeing to listen to people who know a lot about the matter, you’re debating is an act of extreme daring.”
Gail Collins, “Think Trump’s Learned a Lesson? HaHaHaHa,” The New York Times, 2/6/20.