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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,218

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People both here and in the larger media universe have been writing Bernie off all year

I can't count how often he has been dismissed as a rapidly fading and "spent" force, with no possible real path forward to the nomination. Mostly though, away from DU, he is consistently ignored and mentioned as an afterthought only, while pundits talk on and on about Elizabeth, and Mayor Pete and Uncle Joe, although Bernie has consistently ranked in the top tier of candidates, frequently polling at number two both nationally and in the early primary states. This despite the fact that Bernie Sanders virtually always ranks just behind Joe Biden in national polls showing who will defeat Trump by the largest margin. If that is noted at all critics contend it is only because Sanders has high "voter recognition" because of his 2016 run. Funny how high "voter recognition" is never cited as a factor underlying support for Joe Biden. The simple truth is that Bernie Sanders has support from tens of millions of voters. Regardless of what one thinks of him personally (or those voters), Sanders remains an important figure in the resistance to Donald Trump

I have watched critics of Bernie Sanders here wage a relentless three year long and counting assault on the Senator from Vermont. It has often been justified in the name of "vetting", but other names for "vetting" are attack politics and negative campaigning. True it is a more or less legitimate part of politics in a Democracy to attempt to gain leverage on a rival by exposing real or potential weaknesses in them. But it does not scrub negative campaigning of negativity to cloak it instead as "vetting". I have seen posts here for years "attacking" Sanders for "attacking" Democrats, and almost never is even a trace of irony acknowledged.

Much anger has been expressed here that Sanders, for example, "attacked" Clinton by raising concerns like the multi millions she earned off speeches given to top Wall Street firms prior to her 2016 run. Few outside of core Sanders supporters acknowledge that raising such concerns could fall under the definition of "vetting". Sanders is said to have "weakened" Clinton. She says so herself in real time today. Maybe so. But the continued years long "vetting" campaign regarding Bernie Sanders, coming from those who do not support him, is the most intense sustained exercise in negative campaigning that I have ever witnessed during inter-mural fighting on our center left side of the political spectrum. And I have no doubt that it serves the purpose of "weakening" Bernie Sanders. Clearly it has done so here, where Sanders consistently polls lower than he does in all national polls and in all primary state polls of likely Democratic voters. Sanders usually even polls higher among African American voters in South Carolina than he does here on DU, a forum that has overall shown a strong willingness to embrace progressive politics.

I watched how sustained efforts to attack Hillary Clinton (who I supported for President in 2008) over many years weakened her overall standing with the general public, and enthusiasm for her candidacy was effected. Right now, in December of 2019, Bernie Sanders is among a small handful of human beings plausibly positioned to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. If Sanders does, which he well might despite all of the many proclamations here to the contrary, he will need as much support as is politically possible in order to rid our nation of the Trump cancer. I have my opinions and my preferences and some times express my reasons for them, but I have not expressed a single harsh utterance against any of our potential Democratic candidates (with the possible exception of Tulsi Gabbard).

Bernie Sanders may be our candidate in 2020. Only the willfully blind inside our Democratic coalition can not acknowledge that he has his strengths as well as weaknesses. I hope all of us will, with the the bulk of our comments, strongly acknowledge that any of our plausible possible nominees will powerfully serve our national interests if elected in November. We don't have to relentlessly tear into any of them in order to advocate for one or more of them. If Sanders wins the nomination, which is at least highly possible if not highly likely, I hope none of us will have to later regret the battering he underwent on the way to that nomination.

If one were accept the fiction that Trump didn't try to pressure Ukraine for his own political gain

This is what the Republicans would have us believe instead:

1) That Trump's own personal lawyer was for months orchestrating a campaign to do exactly that without any direction coming from Trump to do so. And that the President was totally clueless of it and/or did absolutely nothing to set his attorney straight. OR

2) That the entire diplomatic corp and national security apparatus involved with Ukraine below the level of Secretary of State all believed they saw enough persuasive evidence of exactly that to reach the conclusion that Trump was pressuring Ukraine to deliver political dirt for Trump's reelection campaign. And that the President was totally clueless that he was giving everyone that impression and/or did absolutely nothing to set the record straight with any other plausible reasons for his actions to members of his administration who saw the quid pro quo.

Anyone who would argue that Trump is "innocent" of extortion and bribery is instead arguing that the President is totally inept and incapable of running the executive branch of the U.S. Government when it comes to matters of vital national security. And that should be just as damning as the truth.

It is already uncontested that Trump totally disregarded unanimous contrary opinions from all of his senior national security and military advisors when he gave the green light to Turkey to betray our Kurdish allies. Now it is established that Trump totally disregarded unanimous contrary opinions from his senior national security and military advisors, and all experts on Ukraine, regarding the dangers of freezing military aid to that country and singling a weakening of support for that fragile democracy while it was fighting a Russian invasion.

These truths are uncontested and all establish Trump's total unfitness for office. He must be removed for reasons of national security even were one to argue that Trump is not in fact literally corrupt (which he is).

I'm for Elizabeth, Bernie or Kamala, but I would rather have Amy than either Joe or Pete

And it should go without saying that I would enthusiastically support any of them against Trump.

Biden's campaign has quite simply underwhelmed me, and I've approached this entire primary contest with a much more detached attitude than I have had in prior presidential campaign cycles. Which means I have not been emotionally rooting against anyone, which is the corollary of not strongly for anyone either. This has been a refreshing change for me in a way, remaining in a more passive mode. I have watched to see how our various candidates swayed the public, rather than doing my small bit attempting to sway anyone toward any of our candidates myself.

So, I was and remain open to Biden, but he has impressed me less this time around than I was expecting him too. I expected Harris to be doing better than she has so far also. At this point her winning the nomination is increasingly seeming unlikely. In pundit speak I reside in the progressive lane when it comes to my natural inclinations. IMO only Bernie and Elizabeth remain viable from that so called lane, though it is remotely possible that Steyer can "buy his way" into it if that is where he chooses to position himself ideologically AND he has a few viral moments in the next couple of debates.

The so called more "moderate lane" is a little more complex. For one thing there is the late entry of Patrick and the possible late entry of Bloomberg to contend with, replete with unknown repercussions. It seems that Buttigieg has chosen to stake out turf in the "moderate lane", competing with Biden there. So has Booker and Klobuchar. Of those Mayor Pete clearly has momentum and money behind him. Cory has carved out a "moderate" niche for himself in the second tier, but he hasn't surged. Amy Klobuchar however has begun to show some signs of moving up, and there still is time for her to build upon her recent momentum.

I'll be blunt. I think it would be risky if Democrats nominated Buttigieg this time around, though he might be a good VP addition. There is very little enthusiasm for him among African American voters, and this race has been going on long enough now for that to register as a real problem for him. I have no doubt that the vast majority of African Americans would vote for Buttigieg in the General Election, but enthusiasm (or the relative lack of it) is a very real factor in political success. Hillary Clinton swept up the black vote in Democratic primaries in 2016, but the actual African American voting rate dropped in 2016, which was one of the contributing factors to Clinton not becoming president. And yes there is the matter of vestiges of homophobia remaining in the American public as a whole, which is by no means restricted to minority communities. But there is also Mayor Pete's relative lack of administrative and policy experience above the level of a medium sized municipality. Those motivated to disparage Pete Buttigieg because they harbor homophobia in themselves can use Buttigieg's relative inexperience as convenient cover for attacks on his potential leadership.

I see in Amy Klobuchar a fresh yet experienced face of moderately progressive Democratic leadership. I think she would contrast well against Trump as our nominee, better in some crucial ways than would Joe Biden. I'm keeping a close eye on her as well as on my preferred candidates, and on Daval Patrick also.

Don't let Republicans focus on "the phone call". This was a multi-month extortion conspiracy.

The phone call between Trump and Zelensky was not the basis of the crime. It is one damning piece of evidence of an orchestrated multi-player national security sell out. The crime was carefully formulated and carried out by a team working at Trump's direction and it took place in multiple ways, at multiple times, and in multiple locations. The totality of the evidence must always be front and center

Damning as it may be, Republicans want to focus on that one phone call because if that is examined outside of its full context, then the impeachment burden of proof rests on how certain words spoken in a single instance are interpreted. That lends itself to a "Trump always talks that way, it may be inappropriate but it isn't impeachable" defense. Republicans want to fight on the grounds of a single phone call, a single "spontaneous" moment in time. We can't let them boil it down to that.

Before it was called "The Deep State" it was known as Civil Service

Sane people still know that's what it is, career professionals in service to their nation and beholden to its Constitution. Before the United States enacted Civil Service laws starting in 1871 our government was organized in a different manner. It was widely called "the spoils system" as in "to the winner goes the spoils". Quoting Wiki here:

In the early 19th century, government jobs were held at the pleasure of the president — a person could be fired at any time. The spoils system meant that jobs were used to support the political parties. This was changed in slow stages by the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 and subsequent laws. By 1909, almost two thirds of the U.S. federal work force was appointed based on merit, that is, qualifications measured by tests.Certain senior civil service positions, including some heads of diplomatic missions and executive agencies, are filled by political appointees.

Enactment of the Civil Service system was one of the preeminent political reforms in American history. It drained the patronage driven swamp. It rewarded expertise and experience over loyalty and money. It curbed the excesses of "pay to play", though it did not eliminate them entirely. For example Linda McMahon, owner of McMahon Ventures and co-founder of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) empire, donated over $6 million to getting Trump elected. Much of that was donated to Trump-aligned super PACs, such as Future45 and Rebuilding America Now. McMahon was then appointed administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But it is in the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community, and the State Department where right wing conspiracy hawks typically see the "Deep State" lurking behind every briefing memo. If one defines "The Deep State" as representing the true interests of the American people over the narrow partisan interests of a political leader or party seeking to consolidate their power, they may well have a point. The American people are well served when people who advise our leaders on consequential courses pf action actually know what they are talking about.

In regards to the State Department in particular, where "some heads of diplomatic missions" are "filled by political appointees" one need look no further than at Gordon Sondland, a Portland hotelier appointed ambassador to the European Union after donating $1 million to Trump's inauguration. By the most charitable reading possible, Sondland's inexperience at high stakes diplomacy allowed him to be duped into pursuing Trump's political objective's over the national security interests of the United States in Ukraine. Either that or Sondland was a willing and compliant tool. Neither option speaks well for the eradication of "The Deep State" so that political appointees can singlehandedly oversee Americas interests on the world stage

The forces that rail against "The Deep State" today are the rightful heirs of Boss Tweed, Tammany Hal, and every partisan political machine in America that rewards party loyalty with government jobs. America experimented with patronage driven government, and America rejected it. America opted for a Civil Service system instead, and it helped us become a great nation. Now it seems the President wants to Make America Corrupt Again.

What a time for my 20,000th post.

The times are truly momentous, and historic with a capital "H". Nancy Pelosi was astute and profound to directly reference Thomas Paine. His literal words, which she evoked, are contained in his seminal political treatise "Common Sense":

But we need not go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for the time hath found us. The general concurrence, the glorious union of all things prove the fact. It is not in numbers but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.

My first post on Democratic Underground was in the fall of 2003. That now feels half a century removed. History flows in a mighty stream, the waters change but the river remains. For those of us roughly in my age group (I'm now 70) it is sobering, even staggering to realize that our individual life spans comprise over one fourth of the history of our nation, since the actual time that Thomas Paine spoke of.

And always it is a struggle to preserve and then expand upon the gains that collectively we, over generations, have won; for freedom against autocracy, and for justice against oppression in every form. I watched Richard Nixon consolidate his hold on power in 1972, winning the electoral votes of 49 states in his run for reelection. Then I watched as his growing autocratic tendencies were exposed and finally rebuffed by the Republic Benjamin Franklin said was ours to live in, but only if we could keep it.

I am so grateful for the community of activists who I tap into daily when I log into Democratic Underground. We fight together constantly to keep the Republic that all of us, as Americans, proudly inherited. The Democratic Underground was here for me in 2003, it is here for me today. When Thomas Paine said "It is not in numbers but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world" our community here comes to mind for me.

Impeachment must not be too "narrow" in scope

There is political wisdom in not attempting to throw the kitchen sink at Trump. Impeachment should focus on Trump's misdeeds while in office. Hush money payments made prior to his election should not be a focus. "Collusion" with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign should not be a focus. Long term financial ties with Russia that may lie hidden in Trump's tax returns should not be a focus. There may be ways those can be referenced to provide context during hearings, but they should not constitute separate counts

In that sense the impeachment investigation should be narrowly focused, on actions that have happened since Trump took his oath of office. But it is unwise to narrow the impeachment inquiry down to a single "High crime or Misdemeanor." Trump needs to be removed for far more than just his role in the "Ukraine Conspiracy", grave as that may be. But, more to the point, he needs to be accused by the House of more than that alone.

By all means let the Ukraine charge take the lead. It is distinct and straight forward to prosecute. Unlike the wide scale undermining of the United States Constitution, it involves violating America's national security in an easy to grasp and tangible way. Trump's conduct toward the Ukraine may well be the easiest article of impeachment to convict him of, but it should not be the only one prosecuted. It needs to be pressed within a broader context that additional charges would provide.

Ultimately only a single article of an impeachment indictment against the President needs to pass the House in order for impeachment to move forward, but that does not argue in favor of presenting a single charge only. Some Democrats worry about muddying the waters with too wide a scope of inquiry. I worry about the opposite. A pattern of wide scale Presidential misconduct in office must be presented, otherwise Trump and his allies can focus their disinformation campaign on the particulars of one confined set of facts.

As has been shown before, truth is no deterrent to a Trumpian line of defense, which never revolves around the winning of any argument. Instead their goal has always been to confuse the public with alternate versions of reality that literally turn facts on their head. That is how and why the waters get muddied, to Trump's advantage, and Democrats must not fall into it. The "guilt or innocence" of Donald Trump can not rest on the facts of any single act alone, no matter how consequential it may be. When presented with a discreet accusation, Trump is a master at expanding the "shadow of a doubt" into a dust storm induced blackout, blinding the public of the ability to discern fake from real news with any degree of certainty.

Trump's actual impeachment likely will ultimately rest on Congressional findings regarding the Ukraine, but that by itself could mean winning the battle while losing the war if, in the process, Democrats do not forcefully inject into the record substantial evidence establishing that Presidential misdeeds relative to the Ukraine are consistent with the entire tenor of Trump's Administration and his time in office. That is why additional counts in the final articles of impeachment presented against Donald Trump become critical. It is not just Trump's actions in any instance that must be prosecuted, it is the fundamental integrity of the man who occupies the Oval Office that must be frontally assaulted relative to all of his actions and every misinformation campaign subsequently he launches in his defense.

One count of impeachment does not sufficiently present a pervasive pattern of Trump's core unfitness to hold office. It should and must be buttressed by other charges, based on his actions while in office centered on the Obstruction of Justice and his self serving Corruption at the expense of the American people.

Whoa. The extortion is at best thinly veiled, even in the non transcript transcrpt Trump released

Look at the direct juxtaposition of these two topics in that phone call:

Zelenskyy: "...I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. . We. are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United· States for defense purposes."

The President: "I would like you to do us a favor though
because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has.it. There are a lot. of things that went on, the :whole situation .. I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance-, but they. say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible."

And of course Trump was holding up military aid at the time of this call which Trump initiated.

In essence this reads "So you say you are ready for our suspended military aid, well we have a favor we need to ask of you."

So Trump molds the media agenda and we Democrats don't like that

Some argue that we should ignore his outrage of the day and stay on message about helping the American people on issues that matter to them. First off, there is that old saying about walking and chewing gum at the same time, but I agree that Democrats (and decent Americans of any ideology) can't afford to stay stuck on response/rebuttal mode constantly. I suggest a simple way forward.

We can not avoid fighting the battles that Donald Trump chooses to launch. When he initiates such conflict we are forced onto the defensive, either that or we cede that terrain to him. Battles are fought in the context of a War. Democrats did not choose to stage this current War dividing Americans, but it is ongoing just the same. If we can't avoid it, than we should win it. War is a waste of human resources but surrender to an aggressor comes at an even higher price

I propose that Democrats not focus on each new daily battle that Donald Trump initiates and instead take the offensive in winning the over arching war. We need to stay on offense in this war, we have to frame its contours. We are at war for the soul of America, we are fighting to uphold sacred American values that have embodied our highest aspirations as a people since the Declaration of Independence and the founding of our Republic. Our national motto is E Pluribus Unum. Real Americans do not cater to bullies. Real Americans have no respect for serial liars. Real Americans detest braggarts. Real Americans hate hypocrisy. Real Americans don't want our government run by special interests,nor used to advance private fortunes rather than the public good.

I would rather that the national political debate stayed focused on the very issues that effect the well being of all Americans, policies and priorities and the like. Right now, however, Donald Trump and his increasingly corrupt and compromised administration (along with his silent Republican enablers) IS the issue that effects the ultimate well being or all Americans AND our constitutional form of government.

Trump has consciously injected his toxic brew of hatred into the American debate. He started this war among Americans. Democrats now need to win it by picking our own battles, by launching our own attacks against him on battlegrounds of our own choosing. Trump's toxicity can not be allowed to erode the very fabric of our society, neither can we allow him to frame how that toxicity is employed. Trump's overall toxicity led us into this war, it can't be fought by avoiding it. It must be fought by making it's very existence totally unacceptable to a clear majority of the American People. We need to take the initiative launching attacks. We need to employ our own battlefield tactics. We are at war with Trump for America. We need to frame its contours and define the rot that is actually infesting America. It can serve no good to pretend otherwise.

I believe Trump has started to, and will continue to, overplay the racism card

Had he the discipline to stick to very thinly veiled dog whistles, Trump's "stoke white fear/ divide and conquer" strategy had a fair chance of actually working. His free wheeling, anger laced, anti-politically correct style captivated millions of voters. There is a constituency for what Trump is attempting to coalesce his base around, but he is misreading that base at the edges, which I think will doom him because he can not afford to lose even a small fraction of the base Trump is counting on to win. The fraction which he now risks driving away are whites who harbor strong prejudices but whose self identity demands that they cling to a shred of plausible deniability that they are not, in actuality, full blown racists.

Trump is now tearing that veil of deniability away from them by becoming ever more blatantly full bore racist by the day, if not the hour. That is too harsh a negative light for some, who would otherwise likely support him despite so called "reservations", to stand by Trump in. I am not talking about a large percentage of potential Trump voters, but I think it is a decisive percentage none the less. By making it increasingly uncomfortable for that segment of prejudiced whites, who still insist on denying that they are racists, to continue to fully embrace Trump, Trump is driving away votes that he would need in order to win in 2020.

As his malignant megalomania expands, his ability to attempt nuanced strategic ploys disintegrates. By November 2020 I believe Trump will be fully toxic to at least 55% of voters
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