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1066165461The recent Russian attack on hardline Republicans (Fox News: Russian hackers targeted conservative think tanks prior to midterms) highlights an uncomfortable choice for conservatives – either side with Russia or become another Russian target.

Republicans who hoped Russia’s influence would hurt Democrats just got a wake-up call. Conservatives take notice – Putin doesn’t support Republicans, he supports his allies, and he attacks those who oppose him.

One cannot remain an American patriot and cozy up to Putin at the same time. Yet that is the trap Trump has created for his fellow Republicans. Failure to condemn and forcefully counter Russia’s attacks may be useful to protect the Republican President, but it also places good Republicans in the uncomfortable position of enabling the enemy, an enemy who will destroy them, too, if they don’t toe the Putin line. That’s a trap conservatives should avoid, but it won’t be easy.

Leading a counter-attack on Russia’s illegal election activity may be the patriotic thing, but Republicans are in a terrible bind. If they do the right thing, they will find themselves in the crosshairs of both the President’s wrath and Putin’s, and they put their own President at further risk.

Party or Country – always a hard choice. Or is it?

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stop_corruption_clipartEmployees and contractors in the White House are public servants. Their sole duty of loyalty is the the United States, not to the person currently serving as President, who himself is a public servant. While House NDAs may be permissible to protect the United States, but it is probably illegal, and certainly unethical, for NDAs to protect anyone else or to be controlled by anyone else.

Any non-disclosure agreement, to be consistent with public service, must meet the following tests:

  • It must be between the employee and the United States, not the President personally, or any other entity,
  • The authority to release the employee from such obligations must be vested exclusively in the United States government, not the President personally (e.g. after his term of office expires), or any other entity, and
  • The agreement may not punish or prohibit disclosure of unethical, criminal or corrupt acts.

The President is not a CEO or king. He is a public servant. He may protect the interests of the United States through non-disclosure agreements, but he may not protect his own interests. To do so is a diversion of the wealth of the United States to private interests, or simply put, public corruption and theft.

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Recently several major corporations took a stand against the NRA by severing various ties such as group discounts and co-branding.  On the surface, such moves may be seen as doing a good thing, and may even be good for business.  However there’s a dark side.

A core value of the American way is that politics takes its expression in speech and debate, at the ballot box, and – this is the crucial point – nowhere elseWe accept each other, at work, at play, and do business together, even when we differ.  The coffee shop serves all.  The phone company serves everyone.  We meet as equals at the schoolhouse door, at the courthouse steps, in the bars and restaurants, and in the halls of commerce.

We have our political views, religious affiliations, races, tribal histories, cultural groupings, but we are not these things alone.  In the vast majority of our daily interactions, we disregard those things, and relate to each other as fellow Americans.

There’s genius in that.  There’s stability in that.  There’s a precious social contract we should nourish, and take care not to shred.  Once that contract is torn, it may be impossible to repair.

How toxic a world it would be if Big-D Airlines sold tickets at different discounts to Democrats versus Republicans, if FredEx shipped packages only for Baptists, if bakers only baked cakes for Unitarians, or if a state offered tax breaks exclusively to businesses adopting certain politics.

So what’s a corporation to do?  Stay out of divisive politics entirely.  Stay away from demagogues of all stripes.  The way to distance from the NRA is to distance from all political interest groups, and serve all people uniformly.

Gun control may be laudable, but tribalism and shredding the social fabric is not.

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The Fire is Still Burning

donald-trump-salute-696x417After a year of Trump, there’s a dangerous tendency to believe it wasn’t that bad.

Not so fast! There should be little comfort in disasters delayed, but not averted. The shoes have not dropped, but the threats to our democracy remain:

  • Trump has not attacked North Korea – not yet.
  • Trump has not fired the second round of investigators who would expose his crimes – not yet.
  • Trump has not pardoned those who would rat him out to save themselves jail time – not yet.
  • Trump has not fired Secretary Tillerson, one of the few adults in the room – not yet.
  • Trump has not defied court orders – not yet.
  • Trump has not forced those loyal to him in government to illegally harass, audit, or impede newspapers, TV channels, or reporters as Nixon did – not yet.
  • Trump has not, post-election, incited crowds to violence against fellow citizens – not yet.
  • Trump has not tried to raise insurrection against the FBI, the judiciary, or other parts of government potentially thwarting his criminality – not yet.

We all know that he is capable of these transgressions and more. He remains the same narcissistic, egomaniacal, ignorant, juvenile, volatile, vengeful, dictatorial demagogue he always has been.

Watching and waiting is not enough. Trump must be confronted and constrained before he mis-steps. On this, patriotic Republicans, Democrats, liberals, moderates and conservatives must see their mutual interest and should act in unison.

 

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ngcvqkvmDemocrats continue to obsess about the tactical rather than strategic. The simple truth of electoral failure is that the Democrats lack an appealing theory of government.

It is a waste of time for Democrats to focus on the role of fake news, the Russians, October surprises, their uncharismatic candidate, the Trump kleptocracy, the impact of a Clinton-controlled party machine, or any of the rest of the inside game. These failures at the margins ignore the big strategic losses Democrats are taking.  Those losses dwarf the dirty pool and details of one election.

Simply put, Democrats are losing locally and nationally because the customer doesn’t want the product. Voters recognize that Republicans are offering false hope, but, in the words of one voter, false hope is better than no hope at all.

The product offered by Democrats is a fatal combination of stale and incoherent. Stale because, while the party faithful believe existing Democratic policies need a bigger, bolder try, the displaced or struggling American voter sees those policies as very well tried, and very well failed. This is not a messaging problem – its real.

Democrats need to consider that more-of-the-same is not going to solve middle America’s economic problems. Democrats need to design new and more useful answers to today’s challenges.

It starts by recognizing that the voters they are losing, the voters Democrats most urgently need to reach, do not look like the urban working-class. She looks like the owner of a two-truck plumbing company located 60 to 90 miles outside the urban core, or the guy who works for her. She does not want a government program, she wants the dignity of work. He recognizes that there’s a role for government intervention in the economy, but for the most part his contact with that intervention hurts rather than helps – a tax bill he can’t pay, an OSHA regulation that seems to burden his employer more than it helps.

To this American, redistribution and regulation do not ring true as answers to their problems. To this American, more government – of the kind they experience today – sounds like a burden, not a benefit.

Democrats need a new strategy for this century, for the middle American, or they will continue to lose elections.

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171016212839-john-mccain-liberty-medal-speech-medium-plus-169“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.
John McCain at 2017 Liberty Medal Ceremony (video and transcript)

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ap-picture-477The Arpaio pardon could be the beginning of much broader lawlessness under the tacit command of the president. No doubt any others who have committed crimes on Trump’s behalf, or are thinking about it, have taken notice. Immunity might be theirs, too. The real message of the pardon has little to do with Arpaio – it is that the rest of Trump’s team should feel safe ignoring the law so long as they remain personally loyal to the president.

Arpaio and Trump have their own views on what the law should be; that much is legitimate political wrangling. However when law enforcement officers ignore the orders of their superiors in the courts, substitute their own rulings for the judiciary, they subvert the legal system that they have sworn to serve. Officers need not agree with every twist and turn in a legal process, or agree with every legal ruling, but they must always uphold the law. Anything else is lawless thuggery in an official uniform. When it’s run from the top, it’s called dictatorship.

Our Constitution provides only one remedy for a lawless president, but if law enforcement officers choose loyalty to a dazzling leader over their oath to uphold the Constitution, even that remedy may prove inadequate.

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