Open Fire

Little Donald Trump (Ep. 139)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the dualing Carter Page memos, the stock market freefall, Trump’s war with “Little Adam Schiff,” the new developments affecting the midterm elections, the looming government shutdown redux, and our favorite Super Bowl commercials. It all culminates with a Dirty Dancing tribute.

Nuclear Memo War

by Kevin Kelton

By approving the reckless release of the politically-explosive Devin Nunes memo, President Trump has now demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to heed urgent warnings from his senior advisors. He ignored the dire pleas of his FBI Director, Deputy Attorney-General, Assistant Attorney General, intelligence chiefs, Senators John Thune and Lindsey Graham (both loyal Trump confidants), and probably a few White House higher-ups that we don’t know of yet. When the DOJ and FBI warned him it would be an “extraordinarily reckless” act, the president reportedly erupted in anger and still acted on his reckless impulses.

So how can we trust he will listen to his senior advisors’ warnings not to release a nuclear military strike if that day ever comes? Who is to say that Jim Mattis or HR McMaster will have any more sway over him than the FBI Director,  DAG, and AAG that Trump himself handpicked?

With that in mind, Republicans and others now enabling this reckless president should watch carefully how Trump navigates the next few months. Watch how he responds to a counter-strike memo from Democrats. Will he impulsively escalate the battle? Does he feel the need to always one-up his enemy, always taking the fight to the next level regardless of warnings or consequences? Will he try to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller himself, indifferent to the warnings of senior staff?

If so, is this the behavior of a man you truly entrust with the security of your country and your family?

If the 45th president can’t be trusted to suppress his worst urges in political warfare, what makes you think he’d be able to do it in real warfare? The pressure Trump is under from the special counsel investigation is beyond intense. It’s pretty clear to any objective observer that he’s having some kind of nervous breakdown (as most guilty parties do when the police are banging at their front door). If a mannered and proper adversary like Robert Mueller is breaking him, how would he hold up psychologically against a wily, no-rules nemesis who can read Trump’s neurotic wiring and manipulate him like a puppet master working a marionette?

Because if you think Kim Jong-un isn’t watching and reading how Trump handles all this, guess again. Every foreign leader is watching how this game plays out, reading Trump’s weaknesses and his “tells.” Trump is trying to bluff his way out of the Russia scandal with a losing hand, and his pupils and brow sweat are obvious for everyone to see.

So Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, and every senator, congress person and cabinet officer, pay close attention now. Do you really trust this man under pressure? Is he someone whose worst instincts you’ll be able to contain when the going gets extremely rough?

It’s not a joke or a wild hypothetical. We just saw him launch a reckless nuclear first strike on his political enemies. The next one may be with missiles, not memos.

Stronger Together: Lessons Learned from 2016

by Kevin Kelton

Scholarly books will be written about the 2016 election. And like everything in history, from the Civil War to the cause of world wars, there will never be *one* singular reason for the way things worked out. But I am more convinced than ever that the major reason Hillary Clinton lost was her choice for a running mate.

Hillary should have chosen Bernie Sanders. I believe that together, they would be in the White House today. And we’d be watching a very different State of the Union tonight.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect Sen. Tim Kaine and acknowledge he did help deliver the critical 13 electoral votes from his home state of Virginia – not a small feat for a vice presidential candidate. In most other years, that would be considered delivering the goods for a running mate.

But 2016 was not most years. So I am writing this now because I don’t want to see another Democratic nominee make the same error ever again.

The fatal mistake Clinton made, and lots of political novices make, is thinking that the vp choice is about governing. It’s been said that Clinton felt she could have a good working relationship and governing partner in Kaine. Maybe she would have.

But running for president is not about governing. It’s about winning. You don’t get to govern after you’ve made a concession speech. I believe not tapping Sanders cost Clinton millions of votes, and tens of thousands in the critical swing states where she fell short by a whisker.

Choosing a presidential running mate is about building coalitions. It always has been, since George Washington chose John Adams, and through Lincoln-Johnson to Kennedy-Johnson to Reagan-Bush. Even Clinton’s husband Bill knew in 1992 he needed to pair his small state Washington “outsider” image with a member of the more entrenched D.C. establishment class that barely knew him (hence picking Sen. Al Gore).

In 2016, the big fissure in the Democratic party was not about geography or generational balance or insider-outsider status. It was about the divide between the wings of the party. The progressive left wing had demonstrated its strength and the power of its movement by bringing dark horse populist Bernie Sanders within striking distance of the nomination. They had earned a seat at the table, just as Sanders himself had. A unity ticket would’ve said more about Hillary and the party than any geographic or class-based balance that Kaine had to offer.

And of course, Sanders’ rockstar power would have ignited the party base. Imagine Hillary and Sanders barnstorming the nation to packed arenas of 20,000 screaming fans. It would have neutralized Trump’s free media advantage and the impact of seeing his giant rallies every day on cable news. A Clinton-Sanders ticket would’ve been worth half a billion dollars in free media. And it would’ve robbed Trump of many of his best talking points.

For those who will counter, but Hillary and Bernie could not have governed effectively together if elected, I say nonsense. A president gets to choose her Cabinet, her Chief of Staff, her National Security Advisor, and pretty much every major executive branch position. She doesn’t need a pal as vp. John Kennedy worked just fine with his political nemesis and polar opposite, Lyndon Johnson. (Yes, they actually did work well together.) Eastern elitist George Bush blended in just fine with the western common man Ronald Reagan and team. And Dwight Eisenhower certainly wasn’t hampered by not having a golfing buddy in Richard Nixon.

To those who say Bernie is more effective as a senator than he could have been as Hillary’s vice president, I say, look around. How “effective” do you think he is today?

I passionately supported HRC. I’m still proud of the campaign she ran and the vote I cast. But I will always believe she made a critical mistake in not choosing Sanders (or liberal darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren) to help close the deep fissures burning in her party. Like the Great Depression for Herbert Hoover and Vietnam for Johnson, history judges people based on their biggest mistake. Not picking Bernie Sanders was Hillary’s Vietnam, worse than the email scandal or not going to Wisconsin. A Hillary-Bernie ticket would’ve garnered enough extra votes to deliver Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (and probably Iowa too). And the nightmare of the Trump presidency would’ve been just that: a bad dream.

Democrats in 2020 would be wise to remember that our party is always stronger together. So hold your fire in the circular firing squad of the primary season. Keep your mind and your options open. Let’s not devour our own and lose sight of our much more dangerous common enemy. Unseating Donald Trump and Mike Pence from power will take more than their historically low approval numbers. We need a ticket that joins and balances both wings of our party to maximize our voter turnout.

We are liberals. We are compassionate. Our cause is just. And we are only strong when we all stand together.

Perjury Trap (Ep. 138)

Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.

Diagnosing Trump (Ep. 136)


Episode 136 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the Hawaii nuclear alert scare, President Trump’s sh*t hole comment, Medicaid work requirements, The Donald’s star problem, the Oprah’s presidential chatter, and whether it’s appropriate to psychologically diagnose the president.

Fire and Fury: The Movie (Ep. 135)

Episode 135 of The More Perfect Union podcast discusses the new book about Steve Bannon and the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury,” and muses about who might be cast in the movie.

The Russia Show

by Kevin Kelton

The other day on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber,” HuffPost Editorial Director Howard Fineman said that he doesn’t think Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be able to make a case for obstruction of justice against the president, but he does think Mueller has a strong case for collusion. One hour later on the same network, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Chris Matthews that he doesn’t think Mueller can make a case for collusion, but does have strong one for obstruction.

Two knowledgeable political experts, two opposite opinions.

The truth is that when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation, no one but Mueller and his top deputies knows anything. Not you, not me, not the TV experts. Yet Facebookers on both sides of the partisan seesaw keep spouting nonsense about it with absolute certainty.

One of my favorite silly talking points is, “Collusion is not a crime.” This comment is laughable for its utter lack of legal context. It’s true, if you and I collude to get the best price on a used car, that is not a crime. But if we collude to steal the car, it is. Collusion to commit a crime is called “conspiracy,” and yes, it’s very much against the law. Don’t believe me? See here and here.

Another ludicrous argument is, “There isn’t one shred of evidence supporting collusion.” Actually, there’s a whole bunch. First, you have the Don Jr. June 9 Trump Tower meeting, which was shown in texts to be about meeting with Russian nationals to get and use stolen Hillary Clinton emails with the express goal of changing the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Second, you have the candidate himself asking Russia on national television to hack (i.e., steal) and publish private citizens’ emails with the express intent of affecting the outcome of the election. He even promised a quid pro quo by saying, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Think of it this way: a man involved in a contentious divorce goes into a crowded restaurant and says for everyone to hear, “I’m urging someone to break my ex-wife’s legs. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily for it.” A few days later his wife turns up beaten with a broken leg and broken arm. Don’t you think that is evidence of his complicity in the act? It may not be enough to convict him by itself, but along with other evidence it creates a powerful argument for his guilt.

On the liberal side, my favorite gibberish is that Trump’s cabinet may soon invoke the 25th Amendment. Think about it. Let’s just say for a moment that someone, say Rex Tillerson, was secretly considering it. Who would he whisper it to? Ben Carson? Betsy DeVos? Steve Mnuchin? Sonny Perdue? Wilber Ross? Every one of them would run to the Oval Office to report the traitor in a heartbeat. Go find me four Trump Cabinet appointees you think would support this kind of unprecedented American coup d’état, let alone eight. It’s preposterous. Trump is ready to jail Hillary Clinton for her purported crimes against America. What do you think he’d do to a handful of treasonous ex-Cabinet plotters?

But I think my favorite argument is, “Who cares if Russia stole the DNC emails? Isn’t the content of what’s in them more important?” The simple answer is, no.

Because an election campaign should be based on relatively equal transparency, especially where private material is concerned. If I can see and review one candidate’s tax returns, I should be able to see and review the others’. If I can get my hands on one candidate’s medical records, I should get them for both. If I can view one candidate’s criminal conviction record, it’s only fair to make the other’s public as well. Judging one candidate on personal information that the other one doesn’t have to release is fundamentally unfair.

So to have the DNC emails purloined and published without releasing the RNC’s emails as well was an inequitable prejudice against Clinton. Had the RNC emails also been leaked, we most likely would have seen just as much dirt and ugliness in the Republican primary race as we saw in the Democrats’. (Which, frankly, wasn’t really all that bad.)

And by the way, for those who don’t know history, the Watergate break-in was about stealing the DNC’s private files. It doesn’t matter what’s in them; if you steal private campaign information and use it you are breaking the law. In the electronic age, it’s called Data Theft and it’s prohibited by several state and federal statues.

But maybe the most delicious irony of The Russia Show is that everyone who used to detest James Comey now adore him, and everyone who used to adore him now thinks he’s a conniving, lying enemy of the state.

What is true is that the Trump-Russia investigation has become catnip Facebook groups like Open Fire. Like any good TV soap opera, everyone has their favorite villain and plenty of theories as to how it will all end.

What’s your favorite talking point about Trump, Mueller, Comey, and Russia?

The Gender Equation (Ep. 133)

The Christmas episode of the MPU podcast looks at the evolution of teenage gender identity and transgender issues, and then turns light as the hosts discuss their unusual political gifts and tattoo preferences.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

Let Them Eat Cake (Ep. 131)

Episode 131 of The More Perfect Union podcast covers the Alabama senate race, the Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage wedding cakes case, yet another major news scandal involving Russia and pee, and other headlines of the week as Greg toots his own horn and Rebekah craves some cake.

Kiss of Death for Al? (Ep. 127)

Episode 127 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the latest sex scandal involving Sen. Al Franken, infamous D.C. sex scandals of the past, and which senators might help kiss the tax bill goodbye.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

Handicapping 2020 in 2017

by Kevin Kelton

Everyone’s favorite political game is handicapping the 2020 Democratic primary race. So here’s my humble take. While he’s not my first choice, my instincts tell me  that Bernie Sanders will be the nominee. Here’s why.
I think Al Franken got knocked out today, not that I think he was ever a real contender, and I just don’t see anyone from the second tier (Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand) generating wide excitement these days. When people start to think about a matchup with Trump, they are going to want to see him spar with someone as bold and colorful and unorthodox as him. A conventional candidate like Martin O’Malley or Andrew Cuomo or even Cory Booker isn’t going to excite the imagination of the media or the masses the way a Trump-Sanders matchup will. Of course it *could* happen that someone strikes lightning in a bottle, like Obama and Sanders did in ’08 and ’16; I just don’t see it this time around — not from anyone in this field or anyone likely to show up.
 
That leaves Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Frankly, I am not hearing any groundswell of support for Warren these days. Are you? I’ve been watching the threads in Open Fire when 2020 comes up and I don’t see anyone passionately pushing for her. It seems that, like Chris Christie after 2012, Warren’s window of opportunity may have passed. She’s just not the darling of the left anymore, and center-left Democrats don’t seem to trust her. I think Joe Biden could make a strong run (and I’d probably support him), but I sense that his sheen in the party is fading, too.
 
Now to be honest, Sanders is also a less compelling figure than he was in 2016. Like Ali without Frazier, Bernie just seems smaller without Hillary in the ring. But the difference is, Sanders’ base of support — which was pretty wide and incredibly devoted — is still out there. Everyone who was chomping at the bit to nominate him last time will be just as excited again, and their small donor money will be there, too. So he goes into the primaries with a national organization, tons of enthusiasm from millions of supporters, and money that he can raise regularly without pandering to special interests or corporate donors. All this while Warren, Biden, Cuomo, and Booker are competing against each other for the same finite landscape of big money Democratic donors. Plus the DNC is sensitive to the idea that it was somehow unfair to Bernie last time, so they will bend over backward not to get accused of that again.
 
And finally, in the irony of ironies, Trump’s obvious and deep ties to Putin and the Russians will negate Bernie’s biggest liability: that he’s a socialist. The fear of communism seems to have waned, and what would have been an albatross around Sanders’ neck in 2016 will be a minor issue against the Trump-Putin ticket.
 
Please note: this isn’t me stating a preference; Bernie would not be my first choice. It’s me making a prediction. And I reserve the right to change my prediction as news and circumstances evolve. But my best guess now is that it will be Trump v. Sanders.
 
Of course, my best guess in 2016 was that we’d all be guessing who’ll be running against President Hillary Clinton in her re-election bid. A really bad guess, but at least I was in good company when I made it.

You Just Might Be a Nazi (Ep. 114)

On this episode of The More Perfect Union podcast, the gang talks about rise of Nazis on the streets of America, the ousting of Steve Bannon from Pennsylvania Avenue, continuing dysfunction in the Trump Administration, and what the new Afghanistan war policy may be.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.