U.S. and NATO strategy in Ukraine has been to deny Russia a swift victory. We have accomplished that. Now, prepare to accept indefinite Russian control of vast regions of Ukraine.
A slow but very costly Russian victory over parts of Ukraine appears to be an achievable Putin objective, and we and our NATO allies may have to accept that reality. It’s not the best way to halt Russian aggression, nor the best way to help a beleaguered nation being raped by the thugocracy that is Putin’s Russia.
First, understand Ukraine is defending itself against an unprovoked war of aggression. While no one is arguing for a US-Russian dust-off, we and our allies are not, to date, providing Ukraine with the means to send the Russian marauders packing either. We are, instead, satisfying ourselves that Russia is paying a stiff price for its unprovoked aggression.
To be clear, history will accord President Biden huge credit for denying Vladimir Putin the quick victory the Russian strongman thought was his for the taking. Biden broadcast to the world real-time intelligence, including photography and video footage of the Russian build-up to the war, denying Russia the false flag excuse it was planning to justify its “special military operation.” Biden also rallied our NATO allies to support Ukraine’s determination to defend itself generously. It has been NATO’s finest hour in generations.
Russia’s neighboring nations know they will be in Russia’s crosshairs should Ukraine fall, and make no mistake about it—they will be in Russia’s crosshairs. They have now rushed to join NATO (think Finland and Sweden, for starters).
But Biden’s plan, and therefore NATO’s strategy, presumes that Ukrainian resistance, which has been fearsome, will ultimately prove too costly to Putin and that he will be forced to seek a negotiated settlement. And, yes, that Ukrainian losses, which are substantial, will pressure President Zelensky to pursue a negotiated settlement. To put it more succinctly, the plan appears to allow, through a negotiated settlement, Putin to pocket much of his clumsy and bloody grab while leaving whatever is left to Ukraine.
Ukraine will have paid an enormous price for such a settlement. The war has deteriorated into a contest to determine which nation can afford to bleed the most. Russia, with a population nearly four times greater than Ukraine, can afford to spill much more Russian blood, and Putin seems quite willing to spill as much Russian blood as it takes. The United States and our NATO allies estimate that as many as 120,000 Ukrainian fighters have been killed or wounded compared to about 200,000 Russian casualties. Ukraine has fought heroically, but the country cannot continue to sustain such losses of life while simultaneously having its cities and infrastructure flattened by Russian missiles.
Before the invasion in February 2022, Russia had nearly five times as many troops as Ukraine, a defense budget eleven times larger, an economy almost eight times larger, and significantly better military capabilities. The Russian arsenal is formidable. It includes advanced fighter aircraft, excellent artillery hardware, a massive fleet of tanks, an immense inventory of nuclear weapons, many of which Ukraine handed over to Russia in return for Russia’s promise to recognize Ukraine’s independence, and a vast array of offensive cyber capabilities. Only Ukrainian determination to remain free and independent, backed by a far more motivated military and massive material assistance from America and the rest of NATO, has upended Putin’s plan for a swift and relatively painless victory.
Understand this. Russia, in 1994, pledged in the so-called Budapest Memorandum to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the inviolability of its borders and to refrain from the use or threat of military force against the former Soviet republic. In return for this written pledge, witnessed and signed by the United States and Great Britain, Ukraine turned its entire nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world, over to Russia for dismantling.
However, in Vladimir Putin’s mind, that accord was of the 20th century and pre-Putin. This is now the 21st century, and this is Putin’s Russia. So, in 2014 he unilaterally tore up the Budapest accord, grabbed Crimea, and began an aggressive assault on Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region.
When he attacked Georgia six years earlier, Putin had learned that much of the old Soviet Union might be his for the taking. He has used the same playbook in Ukraine that he perfected in Georgia when he attacked that nation on behalf of separatists. That, too, was a so-called “special military operation” that Putin then called a peace enforcement operation.
The impetus for Putin’s Ukraine campaign probably began when he realized he could throw his weight around in the old Soviet republics with relative impunity. When Putin decided to support separatists in a grotesque ethnic cleansing of Georgians residing in the so-called self-declared republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, he got away with it, pocketing about 20% of the region. Probably then, he began to set his sights on Ukraine seriously. He has used the separatists’ campaign against the Georgians as a template for the 2014 annexation of Crimea and as the precursor to incursions into Ukraine’s Donbas region and last year’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Putin’s Ukrainian blood-letting is particularly tragic here in America because the Trump wing of the Republican Party has been seduced into either softly or overtly supporting Putin’s rape of Ukraine. Former President Trump’s first impeachment resulted from his failed attempt to coerce Ukraine’s young President, Volodymyr Zelensky, into launching an investigation into Trump’s 2020 presidential opponent Joe Biden. The coercion, the reader might recall, involved slow-walking already approved military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky cooperated in finding dirt for Trump to throw at Biden.
So, to avoid alienating the Trump crowd and Trump bloviators such as Tucker Carlson, Republican officeholders, and candidates must profess opposition to Ukraine’s courageous determination to defend itself. We have learned through discovery in the Dominion Voting Machine case that Tucker Carlson actually “passionately” but secretly “hates Trump.”
“Ours forever,” Putin likes to say of Ukraine’s Donbas. After all, he hastens to remind us that most of the people there still speak Russian. He sounds much like King George III, given that most people in King George’s old, lost American colonies still speak English.
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. My podcasts have featured my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, AI Data Scientist Lawrence Kite, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, Jazz artist Ann Hampton Callaway, and Katherine Gehl, co-author of The Politics Industry and founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, with more to follow each week. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the day’s top news and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .Our Legally Rigged Elections
We can do better.
Something is terribly wrong when as few as 10% to 25% of voters determine who wins elected office in much of the country. Nonetheless, that’s essentially how many of our elected officials are selected through our primary elections in America. It’s almost like a rigged election.
Our primary elections are decided by the relatively small number of primary voters who determine the alternatives we’ll have in our November general elections. The winners of these primary elections have generally prevailed with a mere plurality of votes cast by the relatively few voters who vote in primaries to begin with. In 2020, a super-charged presidential election year, only about 25% of eligible voters participated in the nation’s primary elections.
So, in a primary race of three or four candidates for office, someone will often win with a mere plurality of the relatively small number of total votes cast. And because so many of our voting districts are solidly red or blue, the Republican or Democrat who wins these low-vote primary contests effectively wins the prize in the November general elections. So, our low-turn-out, two-party primary elections, which most voters ignore, often determine the whole enchilada for the rest of America.
It’s time to consider a better voting paradigm in America, and fortunately, serious alternatives for improving the way we vote are receiving considerable attention. Final Five, or Final Three, instant runoff elections, sometimes called Rank Choice elections, are getting much well-deserved attention. That’s a good thing.
In the recently completed mid-term elections last November, we saw an increase in the so-called Final Five and Final Three rank-choice elections.
At least 14 states are now considering legislation that would elevate these more equitable voting alternatives; some for federal elections, some for statewide elections, and some for local elections.
Last November, voters in a number of jurisdictions voted to establish general election systems designed to produce winners through a ranking and elimination process instead of relying on nominees from just our two main parties. According to Pew Research, 62 jurisdictions, including Alaska and Maine, have now adopted voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in statewide runoff races.
How It Works:
In a top-five preliminary election, for instance, all voters, regardless of party, are allowed to vote, and all qualifying candidates, regardless of party, are on the ballot. The top five vote-getters then advance to the general election.
Then, if any candidate wins a majority of votes in the first round of the general election, he or she is declared the winner, and the election is over. An instant runoff is conducted if no candidate wins the majority of votes in the first round. In the instant runoff, votes can be tabulated very quickly by computer, or they can be manually counted.
The candidate who receives the fewest votes in the first round of the instant runoff is eliminated. Those voters whose first choice has been eliminated in the first round have their second-choice advance to first place in the next round of balloting in the instant runoff. The process is repeated until a candidate secures a majority in a subsequent round of voting.
An essential aspect of this new voting paradigm is that it encourages candidates to be less extreme, in contrast to our current primary-voting campaigns, which encourage candidates to be more extreme to appeal to the more radical fringe voters who historically turn out in primary elections. Advocates of these voting alternatives have demonstrated that candidates do not play to either party’s fringe and, instead, appeal to the broadest swath of voters.
So far, lawmakers in 14 states have introduced 27 bills that propose various iterations of these voting measures. That’s a good thing.
Some bills would allow variations of this new voting paradigm for statewide and federal elections and some only for local elections. One thing appears certain; rank-choice or final five or final three voting has caught the attention of many public officials and various better-government groups, and interest is growing. That’s a good thing, too.
In Virginia, for example, four lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, have introduced bills modeled after these various voting measures in other states. Two bills would, starting next year, allow variations of rank-choice voting in presidential primaries. Another would allow rank-choice elections in all primary elections, and one would enable rank-choice voting in all local elections.
Both Democrats and Republicans have advanced to high office through rank-choice or final-five voting systems. Glen Youngkin, Governor of Virginia, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are examples of Republicans advancing to high office through this new but equitable voting paradigm. Likewise, in the same election in Alaska, Democrat Mary Peltola was elected to Congress.
Rallying the base by throwing red meat to fringe voters doesn’t work well, where ranked choices determine voting outcomes. The extremes tend to be marginalized, while there is a premium for campaigns that appeal to a broad spectrum of voters rather than voters who cluster at the extremes.
In Connecticut, a bill was introduced to establish a ranking voting system for all state and federal elections. A bill has also been introduced in Connecticut to allow rank-choice voting in all local and municipal elections.
Oklahoma, Montana, and Wyoming have introduced bills allowing rank-choice voting. Maryland and Massachusetts have introduced bills allowing specific towns and cities to use rank-choice voting in their elections. Beginning in 2024, Portland, Oregon, will allow rank-choice voting for city officials.
My current Podcast, which will be released later this week, will feature my discussion with Katherine Gehl, Founder of the Institute for Political Innovation and co-author of “The Politics Industry,” published by Harvard Business Review Press. We will discuss the emergence of final-five instant runoff voting as an innovative alternative to how most elections are conducted in the United States. I think Katherine Gehl is on to something. You may think so too.
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. My podcasts have featured my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, AI Data Scientist Lawrence Kite, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, Jazz artist Ann Hampton Callaway, and Katherine Gehl, co-author of The Politics Industry and founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, with more to follow each week. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the day’s top news and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .Toxic and Combustible: The Defamation of George Soros.
There are those who like and who dislike George Soros. It depends on how they feel about the various causes he has supported or embraced. Fair enough. That’s perfectly rational.
Soros has supported many liberal causes and many liberal politicians. Those who support conservative causes and conservative politicians generally dislike him. Similarly, many who support liberal causes and liberal politicians dislike Charlie Koch. The late Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, speaking in the well of the US Senate, once calculatedly called Charlie and his brother, the late David Koch, “as un-American as anyone I can imagine.” Imagine that. Senator Reid appealed to our patriotism to vilify the Koch brothers.
So, it is not surprising that so many on the far right have, for years, similarly been engaging in super high-octane calumnies demonizing George Soros. No, Soros didn’t fund immigrant caravans traveling to our southern border. No, he never said he wanted to bring down the United States. No, he has never supported open borders. No, he wasn’t a Nazi collaborator, and no, he never funded ANTIFA or any other violent group of protestors.
The concerted effort to hyphenate George Soros’s name with every dark cause imaginable cannot be attributed to the routine rough and tumble of politics. It is not normal. Not in America. Concerted and well-orchestrated Soros bashing is reminiscent of the darkest libels spread during history’s darkest periods by the darkest regimes. Soros bashing has metastasized into something exceedingly ugly and exceedingly dangerous. This is political avarice on steroids.
Rational Americans should be offended that millions among us have been, and are being, deliberately conned into hating and, indeed, vilifying George Soros for supporting, promoting, and embracing causes he has never supported, promoted, or embraced.
Toxic and dangerous fabrications about Soros have been carefully crafted and curated by the very worst among us; people who traffic in calumnies designed to inflame and inculcate abject hatred. These curated calumnies are toxic and highly combustible. We have seen them often in history, and sooner or later, they always result in violence and mayhem. Indeed, they have here in America. The shooter who murdered 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue five years ago claimed he was protesting the assistance provided to immigrants by Jews. The Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitic incidents are occurring at the highest level since the organization began tracking them decades ago.
We’ve seen it all before, always in history’s darkest hours. Soros hatred is nothing more than a carefully curated political strategy. It has a history. It didn’t materialize out of thin air. One of the most successful political operatives in modern political history conceived and curated it, the late Republican pollster and strategist Arthur Finkelstein.
Finkelstein was a favorite of many Republican strategists and aspirants for high office, including Barry Goldwater, Jessie Helms, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and many others. He also plotted on behalf of conservative foreign politicians, from Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. His perfection of negative political advertising is legendary. His trademark strategy for winning political campaigns was simply to serve voters something or someone to hate. Pols, who have worked in the trenches of political campaigning, had a name for the strategy, “Finkel-Think.”
The award-winning Swiss investigative journalist, Hannes Grassegger, writing in Das Magazin, described Finkelstein’s winning campaign strategy for his client, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, as “…picking the perfect enemy and then going full out against that person, so that people are actually scared of your opponent. And never talk about your own candidate’s policies; they don’t matter at all,” Finkelstein advised his clients. He realized the best way to get Orbán elected was to find someone to demonize. Finkelstein selected George Soros. Soros was perfect, Grassegger wrote. “The very right hated him because he was Jewish, and people at the very left hated him because he was a capitalist.” Soros has replaced Rothschild as the symbol of the centuries-old, non-existent international cabal that supposedly pulls the strings controlling non-existent puppet politicians worldwide.
And so scurrilous right-wing politicians and the commentators who promote them have created an industry devoted to demonizing George Soros. To be sure, far-right politicians have ample reason to oppose George Soros, just as far-left liberals have legitimate reasons for opposing Charlie Koch. They both generously support candidates and causes that many on the right or the left strongly oppose. We needn’t have a problem with that. That’s the legitimate rough and tumble of politics.
But here’s the thing; when commentators or politicians construct or give credence to allegations they know to be falsehoods, they are not engaging in routine rough-and-tumble politics. They are, instead, engaging in vicious and dangerous calumnies that are destructive to the fabric of our democracy and abusive to those who unthinkingly pass along this carefully curated misinformation. They are also engaging in a very reckless and often deadly enterprise.
Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian intellectual and historian who has served on the faculties of Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard, as well as the Central European University, which was founded by Soros over thirty years ago, calls the anti-Soros campaign “a faithful reprise of every single trope of anti-Semitic hatred from the 1930s. The whole thing is a complete fantasy,” Ignatieff says. “This is the politics of the 21st Century. If you haven’t got an enemy, invent one as fast as you can, make him look as powerful as possible, and bingo – you mobilize your base and win elections with it.”
Finkelstein started developing a political method that reads like a how-to guide for modern right-wing populism. Finkelstein’s premise was simple. Every election is decided before it begins; he would famously advise his clients. Most people know who they will vote for, Finkelstein preached. They know what they support and what they oppose. It’s very difficult to convince them otherwise, Finkelstein would tell his clients. “It’s a lot easier to demoralize people than to motivate them,” he preached. And thus, “the best way to win is to demoralize your opponent’s supporters.”
The Finkelstein strategy was always to polarize the electorate, to have each side at the other’s throat. To Finkelstein, fear was the fuel with which to energize political campaigns. “The danger has to be presented as coming from the Left,” a 25-year-old Finkelstein once famously advised Richard Nixon.
Whoever doesn’t attack first will be beaten, he argued. Finkelstein’s signature tactic was always to make issues personal. “Every campaign needs an enemy to defeat,” he would advise clients. He called his negative campaigning technique “rejectionist voting” — relentlessly demonizing the enemy until even the most lethargic voters would turn out on election day just to reject them.
Soros hatred was integral to Finkelstein’s political consulting. It was effective for Orbán’s Fidesz Party in Hungary, and it is proving effective for today’s Republican Party in America. Finkelstein said a dozen years ago in one of his last public speeches: “I wanted to change the world. I did this. I made it worse.”
Sadly, and perhaps, most troubling, the curated anti-Soros calumnies go hand-in-glove with antisemitic agitation here in America and abroad. Anti-Soros conspiracy theories have been a prelude to antisemitic outbursts and the predictable violence that follows them just as night follows the setting sun.Marjorie Taylor Greene: A Joke, but Far From Funny.
Some jokes are just not funny. Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, from Georgia’s 14th congressional district, is just such a joke. She will long be remembered for doing and saying crazy, offensive, nutty, generally divisive stuff and remembered for little else. Her most recent excursion into Nuttyland was her pronouncement this week that there should be a divorce between America’s blue and red states. As usual, her nuttiness drew the press coverage she craved.
While Greene says she is not advocating Civil War (which would be a repudiation of her oath of office), the Georgia congresswoman got precisely what she wanted from her reductio ad absurdum, massive attention. “Civil War” exploded as a trending hashtag on Twitter immediately after her plea for a national divorce. So, Greene doesn’t advocate a civil war, although she advocates that anyone relocating from a blue state to a red state would lose the right to vote for at least five years until those former blue-state Americans had been purged of their blue-state proclivities. Greene says she simply advocates a divorce; a divorce, no doubt, with enormous alimony payments to her red-state amen cheerleaders.
By and large, the blue states from which she desires a divorce are the states that contribute the most in federal taxes to the nation’s treasury. The top per capita contributing states are blue states, Connecticut ($15,643), Massachusetts ($13,582), New Jersey ($13,137), New York ($12,820), and California ($10,510). Her divorce-mate red states, well, they unfortunately require much more than they contribute. Wyoming, perhaps the reddest of the red states, requires the most, with about 55% of its revenue coming from Washington. The more conservative, it seems, the more they need from our awful blue states.
Murad Antia, a senior instructor in business at the University of South Florida, laid it all out last year in a guest column in the Tampa Bay Times. Mississippi receives about $2.07 for every tax dollar it sends to Washington. Kentucky $2.89, Virginia $2.24, West Virginia $2.15, Mississippi $2.09,Alaska $2.07, South Carolina $1.71, and Florida received $1.24 for every dollar it paid in federal taxes. It seems these red states are doing pretty well at the fiscal trough. Conversely, Connecticut got back only .89 for every dollar it sent to Washington, Massachusetts .90, New York and New Jersey .91, and Minnesota .97
Here’s the thing. Most red states receive more from the government than they contribute in tax dollars. A majority of the states with the lowest GDP, South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi, are, as might be expected, the most federally dependent states. Greene thinks all these states should divorce themselves from the rest of the country, but probably not from its treasury.
Nutty stuff has been Greene’s stock and trade in Washington. Her nutty pronouncements have earned her barrels of ink and reams of news clippings but have yielded nothing for the people of Georgia other than, perhaps, two Democratic Senators. Her nuttiness has earned her the embrace of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He has elevated Her Nuttiness to positions on two of Congress’s most important committees, homeland security and oversight and accountability, where her penchant for nuttiness can do some real damage. Not surprisingly, Speaker McCarthy, who has had so much to say about Liz Cheney’s standing up for our constitutional democracy, has been utterly mute regarding Marjorie Taylor Greene’s call to tear it down.
America is a Republic defined by its Constitution. Now, states cannot really separate themselves from the rest of America. While 163 years ago, eleven states tried to separate from America; it turned out to be a messy and deadly flirtation with divorce.
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s call for a red-state, blue-state divorce could be dismissed as mischievous silliness, except it is dangerous in this divisive time in which America finds itself. Seriously dangerous. She is advocating nothing less than one-party rule. She supports an intolerant, authoritarian future, the very thing Benjamin Franklin so feared when he declared that we had a Republic if we could keep it.
She, of course, has to be ecstatic over the attention her reductio ad absurdum is drawing from the likes of Shawn Hannity and Charlie Kirk, and she could care less regarding the criticism from other Republican personalities such as Laura Ingraham, who referred to Greene’s proposal as “the last thing we need,” and Mitt Romney, who described Greene’s divorce proposal as “insanity.”
But here’s the thing; millions, perhaps tens of millions, of voting Americans love this poke-in-the-eye to the American experiment. They are the ever-present clique that George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and the other founders dreaded. They all knew the path upon which America had walked onto the pages of history would be strewn with obstacles and pitfalls. They knew. From Washington to Lincoln, they knew America’s greatest danger would always come from within its borders when political malaise evolved into an opportunistic contagion. Foreign aggressors would never bring down the new nation, but if America were to fall, it would be at the hands of misguided or misanthropic Americans. Enter the Marjorie Taylor Greene chorus of the American body politic.
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. January podcasts featured my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, and Dr. Lawrence Kite, AI Data Scientist, with more to follow each month. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the top news of the day and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .Litigating the Limits of Lying
Dominion Voting Systems vs. Fox News
I do not know, nor does anyone else know, how the Dominion Voting Systems suit against Fox News will turn out. But it seems we’ll know soon enough as the voting machine company’s case against Fox News progresses, surviving Fox’s repeated attempts to dismiss the case. The defamation case is scheduled for court on April 17th. It will be heard by Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis, who, thus far, has not been sympathetic to defense pleas for summary dismissal based on the First Amendment.
I’m not a lawyer, and frankly, I don’t remember much about a Law of the Press class I took as an elective when I was a senior at the University of Maryland many decades ago. I do, however, remember the warning that reckless disregard of the truth was considered a no-no that journalists ignored at their peril. I presume it still is.
In what promises to be a landmark defamation case, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. is aggressively litigating its defamation case against Fox News. Depositions referencing internal messages made by Fox officials and by Fox commentators to one another and others seem to acknowledge that they knew they were broadcasting nonsense about supposed fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. It is a safe bet that neither Fox News nor its commentators will argue that they believed the 2016 election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump despite the network’s bloviators constantly inferring that it was.
Fox’s talking heads hyperventilated their election fraud narratives while privately acknowledging to one another that the fraud claims they were parroting were based on bull hockey. The rigid standard in a defamation suit brought against high-profile public figures or institutions is that there must be a reckless disregard for the truth for a case to succeed. We’ll see what a court of law decides, but the issue appears to be a no-brainer in the court of public opinion.
Bret Baier, Fox’s chief political anchor, commenting to a friend, “There is no evidence of fraud. None. Allegations – stories. Twitter. Bullshit.”
Fox Commentator Laura Ingraham commenting on Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell—”a bit nuts.”
Lou Dobbs, the former Fox Business commentator, acknowledges he was aware of no evidence that Dominion rigged the election.
Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell addressed her allegations of fraud, “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were true statements of fact.”
Even Tucker Carlson complained about Sidney Powell’s lies, writing to fellow Fox host Laura Ingraham that Powell “had no evidence of fraud.”
The fly in the ointment for the network’s bloviators was the Fox News Election Decision Desk. It is widely regarded as the best in the business. It has been given free rein to call elections as its analysis of the returns dictates without regard to what the network’s commentators are reporting.
The Fox Decision Desk was the first to call Arizona for Biden. The bloviators went ballistic as they had in the past when the network’s Decision Desk (correctly) called an election contrary to what the on-camera commentators were suggesting.
All hell broke loose at Fox when Arizona was correctly called for Biden. However, Arnon Mishkin, director of the Fox News Decision Desk, stuck to his guns. “We’re four standard deviations from being wrong,” Mishkin said. “And, I’m sorry, we’re not wrong in this particular case.” And he was correct, Trump, Bannon, Stone, Powell, Giuliani, and Kari Lake notwithstanding.
Particularly unnerving were the Fox commentators’ statements that suggested that reporting or commenting on what their audience craved to hear was more important than reporting what the facts actually revealed about the 2020 election.
Because defamation cases are so hard to prosecute against public personalities, media personalities have often become brazen, even reckless, in pushing the boundaries of acceptable commentary or reporting. That is not so surprising. Several messages by Fox personalities to one another that seem to confirm that they knew they were participating in an election fraud farce are both surprising and, let’s just say it, quite damning.
This is very serious stuff. At least to this writer, it appears that commentary by leading Fox News personalities has been deliberately inconsistent with what they knew to be true. They may have unintentionally contributed to a long overdue rethinking of the legal rules that have allowed unreasonably abusive and destructive commentary against public personalities to have free reign with little or no recourse by those who have been maligned.
Particularly offensive are the statements that suggest that reporting or commenting on what their audience craved to hear was more important than reporting what the facts actually revealed about the 2020 election.
Many Fox viewers, it seems, were loyal to the Fox narrative but not so much to Fox itself. As soon as the Fox Decision Desk called the 2016 election for Biden, viewers left Fox in droves and turned to the newer and smaller right-wing competitor, Newsmax, where they could hear what they wanted to hear.
The abandonment of Fox by many of the Trump crowd freaked out Fox commentators. Hannity texted his fellow on-air colleagues, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, that the Arizona election call “destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build, and the damage is incalculable.” Carlson referred to the Fox election decision desk’s timely and correct call as “vandalism.”
But at the end of the day, it was simply the correct call
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. January podcasts featured my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, and Dr. Lawrence Kite, AI Data Scientist, with more to follow each month. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the top news of the day and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .AI BOTS and Free Speech: Be Very Concerned.
Fifty-five years ago, the world met Hal. Not me, but Hal 9000 in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was, perhaps, the first peek most of us had at artificial intelligence (AI) and computers that could think and make decisions and communicate what they wanted to tell us and persuade us to do what they wanted us to do.
Well, bad actors leveraging powerful computing technology are busy communicating (and curating) what they want us to learn in a way that will make each of us receptive to internalizing their messages. And yes, of course, let’s give a nod to all the wonderful things AI can and will provide, and let’s acknowledge that the age of the supercomputer intersecting with our lives is upon us.
However, let’s not lose sight of the dangers these learning machines represent. Machine learning is that part of AI that gives supercomputers the ability to learn from massive volumes of data without explicitly being programmed. They can and do learn how to construct a message to which you, specifically, are apt to be receptive, even if the news is deceitful and untruthful. We can all celebrate the great evolving potential of AI, but we would be fools to be dismissive of the potential for harm.
We are being bombarded by Bots, short for robots which are simply messages from supercomputer artificial intelligence programs that, in effect, have created non-human agents (Bots) for human puppeteers who may be here in America or anywhere else in this interconnected world.
Bots have one purpose. They are designed to simulate human activity, that is, to fool the receivers of the messages into believing that a human being sent it to them. Be concerned. Be very concerned.
And now we have generative AI that can understand and communicate with us in a way that is exceedingly close to conversing as we humans talk.
It is known that AI (compliments of the Kremlin) was hyper-active in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in the form of Russian Bots. Specifically, more than 36,000 Russian-Bot accounts tweeted to American home computers “news or commentary” about the U.S. election between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15, 2016. These were online accounts masquerading as humans, but they were actually messages contrived by Russian-developed artificial intelligence.
These phony online “persons” created and sent an estimated 288 million impressions of Russian Bot tweets. And they were just getting started. In the first three months of 2019 alone, Facebook took down an estimated 2.2 billion utterly fake accounts, supercomputer-generated Bots pretending they were people like you and me communicating to their Facebook universe of friends and family to be read, “liked,” and often “shared.”
This new and insidious interference in our political life and national elections is an outrage. But even more sobering is the reality that Bot speech, that is non-human, carefully crafted messaging designed to appear as though it comes to us from human beings, from fellow citizens like you and me, may very well be speech protected by the First Amendment.
The First Amendment protects speech (written or spoken) and not so much the speaker of speech. It protects the message more than the messenger. It protects the listener of speech (our right to hear or read what a messenger is saying or writing) just as much as the “speaker” or writer of speech.
There is a consensus among many lawyers that “speech” by non-human, computer-generated robots is as protected as speech produced by you and me.
John Frank Weaver, an attorney specializing in artificial intelligence, contends that speech created and distributed by Bots should have all the constitutional protections as actual speech by real humans. Nothing in the First Amendment stipulates that written or spoken speech is limited to human beings. (Who knew?— an American founder might ask).
Weaver posits that our right to free speech should include speech contrived by AI, robots, and Twitterbots. And Weaver is not alone. These champions of robot-generated free speech suggest that it is up to us, approximately 330 million Americans (or at least those of us old enough to vote), to differentiate between AI Bots and human-generated content. Be concerned. Be very concerned.
Some believe the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which conferred on corporations the same free-speech protections humans have, also grants the same protections to artificially conceived and generated messages from supercomputers. Of course, human beings do write and speak for corporations.
On the other hand, troll farms generate what I’ll call Bot-beings. They “pretend” to be human. They can and do develop messages on behalf of governments or other special interests, politicians and wannabe politicians, or others who may simply want to disrupt civil society. They then send or share these machine-generated messages as though thinking people had shared them.
They aren’t really engaging in free speech. They are manufacturing speech as well as the purveyors of speech, often to achieve political objectives, and do not necessarily represent the thinking, concern, or passion of any human being. Be concerned. Be very concerned.
California has passed a Bot law that makes it unlawful to use a Bot to communicate or interact with another person online in California with the intent to mislead that person about its artificial identity, thus deceiving that person about the content of the communication. The Bot must be identified as a Bot. Good for California!
The idea that AI speech is just babble generated by humans is disingenuous. Pew Research warned that two-thirds of all the headlines tweeted on Twitter were then shared by Bots. When artificial intelligence can produce content tailored to specific people based on what it has learned about their likes and dislikes, and what comforts them and discomforts them, we are, indeed, in a strange new world. Welcome to the future. Be concerned. Be very concerned.A Third Way with a Two-Party System?
Third parties simply do not elect presidents in the United States. They never have, although third parties have, on occasion, had a substantial impact on the country’s history.
In July 1850, Vice President Millard Fillmore ascended to the Presidency following the death of President Zachery Taylor. He then lost the Whig Party nomination in 1852 to Winfield Scott. Scott then went on to lose to Franklin Pierce (one of America’s two worst presidents). Fillmore ran again in 1856 as the American Party (or Know Nothing Party) candidate losing to James Buchanan, who proved there could be even a worse President than Franklin Pierce.
Then there is third-party candidate Ross Perot (Reform Party), who cost George H.W. Bush his election against Bill Clinton, and Ralph Nader (Green Party), who managed to cost Al Gore his election against George W. Bush.
Currently, a significant organizing effort is underway to establish a new third party called the Forward Party. Its founders are determined, well-intentioned, and, one might fear, somewhat naïve. The founders are Democrat Andrew Yang, a businessman, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President in 2016, and a former candidate for mayor of New York City. Joining him in this effort is Republican Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and a former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator during President George W. Bush’s administration. Also at the center of this effort is David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Another new third political party with no representation in Congress, fielding candidates with no real following, minimal current name recognition, and no relevant accomplishments, is not apt to win the White House in 2024.
The fact remains that third-party candidates just do not do well running against candidates who are prominent Democrats or Republicans.
So, instead of third-party candidates, what might happen if there were a ticket consisting of a prominent presidential candidate and an equally prominent vice-presidential candidate who were and are active members of their respective Democratic or Republican political parties, just not the candidates picked at their party’s nominating convention?
Here’s the thing. A diminishing number of Republicans and Democrats are enthused about the pre-ordained choices they will be asked to support. It appears likely, if not certain, that former President Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party nominee. A Trump candidacy will be burdensome given the former President’s substantial legal problems, his remarkable propensity to say whatever comes into his mind, the absurdities and insults notwithstanding, his openly racist companions, and his penchant for trashing anyone critical of him.
On the other hand, Biden inspires few people, will be well into his eighties, and his verbal stumbles are probably sure to increase as he ages. For the record, I believe both Trump and Biden have noteworthy accomplishments. The question is whether they represent the best their respective parties have to offer. It is difficult not to ask, is this the best we can do?
Recent polling data suggests that around sixty percent of the American electorate is asking that very question. What does it say about America if the answer to that question is yes?
According to Pew Research and Gallop, most Americans are unhappy with being handed these two choices in 2024—take it or leave it.
One alternative to that partisan ultimatum is a third choice (not a third party) that is being seriously contemplated if the level of dissatisfaction with the choices the two primary political parties are anointing is the current President and the immediate past President. Biden and Trump will be well into their eighties during their first term in office should either one be elected President of the United States in 2024.
However, a popular, accomplished, and prominent Democrat or Republican running on a unity ticket determined to unify the country may be another matter. During my podcast last week with No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancy, he discussed just such an initiative that the non-partisan political interest group is preparing if it were clear that most American voters were disappointed with the nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Clancy says that No Labels would only field such a unity ticket if a substantial majority of American voters were unhappy with the nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Clancy emphasizes that such a unity ticket would not involve creating a new third party but rather a unity ticket that would consist of firmly committed centrist members of both parties.
Suppose polling demonstrates strong dissatisfaction with the nominees of both political parties. In that case, No Labels may be prepared to provide a third way by qualifying a unity ticket consisting of a popular and accomplished Democrat and Republican to be placed on ballots throughout the United States in 2024.
“The availability of a unity ticket would be like an insurance policy,” Clancy said. “You’re glad you have it, but you hope you never have to use it.”
We have been conditioned to accept that we must vote for whatever candidates the two primary political parties nominate. It is possible, however, that American voters may have a third alternative; an opportunity to vote for a Democrat and a Republican committed to unifying the country instead of candidates who see politics as a blood sport in which opponents do not see one another as constructive competitors, but rather as evil opponents.
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. January podcasts featured my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, and Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, with more to follow each month. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the top news of the day and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .GOP is Giving “REHAB” A Whole New Meaning
And it isn’t good.
The Republican Party is laboring to rehab the very malady that inflicts it rather than rehabilitate itself. It’s True. We generally think of Rehab (or rehabilitation) as a restorative process that corrects or reverses a dangerous or ruinous circumstance.
We think of returning a person, a neighborhood, a building, or even a cause to good health or productive purpose.
The leadership of today’s Republican Party is fiercely working to rehabilitate (make respectable) the anti-democratic cohort that is actually enfeebling the Party. Their purpose is the very antithesis of rehabilitation. Rather than rehabilitate the Party that the election deniers might well destroy, Republican leadership has, instead, chosen to rehabilitate (elevate) those who are and have been on the dark side of this tragic and evolving history. They would be well advised to reflect on John F. Kennedy’s warning over a half-century ago, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
The political cohort of election deniers that the current leadership of the GOP is laboring mightily to elevate threatens a deadly thrust into the heart of the American experiment. This cohort seems dedicated to the proposition that when an election rejects its agenda, the remedy is to reject the election.
Most of these election deniers were, of course, elected or re-elected in the very same election they claim was rigged in 2020. The Republican Party has not marginalized them. They have, instead, been elevated to near-exulted status. These anti-democratic politicians have been rewarded with important committee chairmanships, which, in congress, is akin to being given the keys to the kingdom.
Who are these newly appointed election-denying Committee Chairs? Take a look. Agriculture, Glenn Thompson (R-Penn); Armed Services, Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Budget, Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.); Education and Workforce, Virginia Foxx (R-NC); Energy and Commerce, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa.); Homeland Security, Mark Green (R-Tenn.); Judiciary, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio); Natural Resources, Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Science, Space and Technology, Frank Lucas (R-Ok.); Small Business, Roger Williams (R-Tx.); Transportation and Infrastructure, Sam Graves (R-MO); Veterans’ Affairs, Mike Bost (R-Ill.); and Ways and Means, Jason Smith (R-Missouri).
As I reported last week, 13 of the 15 Republicans who Speaker McCarthy has newly appointed to populate the all-important House Oversight and Accountability Committee, the chief investigative committee of the House of Representatives, are election deniers.
Two-thirds of the 17 new committee chairs are among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. A dozen were signatories to the ridiculous failed amicus brief seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all states in which a majority of the voters cast their ballots for Joe Biden.
Many who voted to deny the Presidency to Joe Biden were backbenchers or neophytes who followed their election-denying leaders.
But many were political chauvinists who would not hesitate to seize power if their power-hungry leaders gave the signal. These people will do whatever it takes to seize power and whatever it takes to hold onto power. They believe power is the domain of those who take it when the opportunity is at hand. To these political operators, an election is merely an opportunity but not a deciding factor in determining who wields power.
The Republicans will wield power in the House, but very narrowly. So, Speaker McCarthy has embraced (quite literally) the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who sarcastically announced that if she and Steve Bannon had been running the January 6th insurrection, “we would have won, and we would have been armed.” Greene, who now sits on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, has become a favorite of Speaker McCarthy. He lavishes praise on Greene and others who have come to Washington to break the china and to cheer on those who came to vandalize and attack the Capitol, to hang Mike Pence, to pledge their allegiance to the maelstrom of Mar-a-Lago and, ultimately, to secure the tiniest of footnotes to the history of our country.
Greene’s ability to wield actual political influence is also a nails-on-the-blackboard moment given that less than two years ago, she was an outspoken fan of QAnon, was dismissive of school shootings, believed that no plane was ever flown into the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, and claimed that Jewish laser beams caused the California wildfires. “I will never leave that woman. I will always take care of her,” McCarthy told a friend, according to the New York Times.
Speaker McCarthy has paid a high price to secure his place in history, dubious as that place may be. And speaking of history, Republicans should revisit the history of their own Party. They should study how quickly a party out of step with the arc of history can fall from impressive heights to utter oblivion. Today’s Republican Party was born out of the dissension and conflict that tore apart its predecessor Whig Party in 1855.
Philip Wallach, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, could have been talking about today’s Republican Party when he observed of the Whigs, “it is remarkable how fast it all fell apart.”
Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. January podcasts feature my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, and Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, with more to follow each month. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the top news of the day and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .The Abnormal New Normal
The two-party system: sagging at the seams.
Traditionally, running for high political office outside of the two-party system has been, more often than not, a fool’s errand. That may be changing. The extremes in both parties are, today, monopolizing much of the discourse, and a growing swath of the American body politic seems to be embracing a plague on both their houses attitude.
A Pew Research study last November found that over 60% of American adults had unfavorable views of the Republican Party, and nearly 60% had similarly negative thoughts of the Democratic Party. Around one in four Americans, according to Pew Research, dislike both parties. According to Gallop Research, between 50% and 60% of Americans believe we need a third party, with about 40% satisfied with our two-party system. In the event the current standard bearers of the two parties (Biden and Trump) wind up with their party’s nominations, No Labels, a Washington-based political interest group, has floated the idea of a unity ticket consisting of a prominent Republican and Democrat, thus avoiding the creation of a third Party.
This is serious stuff because both major parties are embroiled in controversies that threaten to “turn off” much of the American electorate. Today, the leaders of both parties have monopolized the daily news cycle with their respective mishandling of classified documents, the distinction between the two boiling down to Biden being apologetic and cooperative and Trump being arrogant and obstructionist.
While both political parties have, over time, had their share of miscreants, crooks, and ne’er-do-wells, the Republicans are certainly hogging the clown car today. Both parties have had to tolerate their institutional (if not institutionalized) misfits from time to time. Today’s Republican Party, however, is rife with election deniers, attempted-coup apologists, and what former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a popular Republican in a very Democratic state, called an assortment of mixed nuts during his podcast with me earlier this month.
Anyone trying to understand why abnormal has become the new Republican normal need merely look to who House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has appointed to serve on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. Keep in mind that this is the primary investigative committee of the House of Representatives. Among those appointed to this committee are conspiracy theorists and/or election deniers Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), who famously credited former President Donald Trump with hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz), Lauren Boebert (R-Col.), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz), William Timmons (R-S.C.), who claimed, “big tech, the media, and pollsters piled on to change the outcome of the election,” and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla).
Thirteen of the 15 new Republicans who will now serve on this investigative committee either voted to deny Joe Biden the presidency or simply claimed that he didn’t win. This is the new normal in the new Republican caucus
It will be interesting to observe how election deniers such as Jim Jordan, who now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, will tolerate witnesses who are subpoenaed and refuse to testify. Jordan himself thumbed his nose at the subpoena he received to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6th attempted coup. In fairness, Jim Jordan claims he never specifically claimed the election was stolen. Here, specifically, is what he did claim: “I don’t know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn’t actually win this thing based on all the things you see” (without ever specifying any of the things we are supposed to see that proves that Trump actually won the election). Similarly, Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who also now serves on the House Oversight Committee, also refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before the January 6th Committee. This is the abnormal new normal.
Think of it. At least three prominent Republicans who stiffed the January 6th Committee by ignoring its subpoenas have declared their intent to subpoena witnesses to bolster their investigations into alleged democratic skullduggery. And this, too, is the abnormal new normal.
And, finally, we have the man who might be the best-known Republican in the 118th Congress, George Pinocchio Santos. It is rumored that Burger King is considering changing the name of its famous Big Whopper to the Santos Burger.
Many are wondering just what deals Kevin McCarthy made to coax the recalcitrant members of his caucus into voting to make him Chairman after fourteen failed attempts to secure the powerful and coveted position. He agreed to make the major mischief makers the bantam kingmakers. Kevin McCarthy did what he had to do to become the ringmaster of the circus that is certain to characterize the 118th Congress of the United States of America.
Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute described the absurdity of Speaker McCarthy’s committee assignments as the equivalent of giving Al Capone the power to investigate Eliot Ness. Welcome to the abnormal new normal.
Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. January podcasts feature my discussions with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Barbara Boxer, and Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels, with more to follow. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for our Time.” Join me in dissecting the top news of the day and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. Just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber: https://oftheeising1776.substack.com/subscribe .Biden and Trump Possession of Classified Documents
Whodunit? Well, it seems they both dunit.
It’s a serious offense in both cases, and that’s the bottom line. Both Biden and Trump have abused the privilege accorded them as the occupiers of the highest offices in the land. The primary difference seems to be that Biden is contrite, admits that those sensitive documents should not have been in his possession, and claims he didn’t know they were still in his possession. On the other hand, Trump admits he took them, says he owns them because he made a mental note of declassifying them, and insists he wants them back, as though they were his favorite snow globes from Toys R Us.
Biden seems embarrassed, while Trump is characteristically arrogant. Nonetheless, President Biden has tossed former President Trump a desperately needed life preserver. In Trump World, and, yes, in my world too, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Understand this: Vice President Biden had very sensitive, secret files that he shouldn’t have had tucked away here and there. Efforts by some in the media to differentiate between the current President’s possession of documents that didn’t belong to him and which he isn’t permitted by law to have in his possession and the immediate past president’s possession of similarly sensitive documents is interesting but somewhat irrelevant.
While there really is a big difference in how Biden and Trump comported themselves when highly classified documents were discovered at their respective properties, a serious violation of the law may well be common to both cases.
Another aspect of this national embarrassment should be of great concern to all of us. As we all know, community lending libraries seem to exert better control over the material they “lend out” than our national security agencies do. We’ve all heard about the protocols and rules supposedly in place to protect our most secret documents and control the chain of possession. Really?
I don’t wish to exaggerate the security failures that are so apparent in how both Trump and Biden have abused their privileged access to these sensitive documents. But these security failures should be very troubling to every American. You can bet they’re plenty troubling to our allies and fascinating to our enemies.
Many years ago, as a student at the University of Maryland, I worked part-time at the Petworth Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library. As I recall, people with library cards could check out books for about two weeks. If the books were not returned on time, we penalized the book hoarder two cents a day for each day the books were not returned on time. There were no computers, iPads, or other electronic devices to keep tabs on the missing books. We had a simple card file to tell us whether “The Little Engine That Could” or “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” had been returned on time. So, the question: how in the world could our super high-tech intelligence archives have missed the fact that Vice President Biden’s borrowings were long over-due and stashed away; some in his office, some in his residence, and even some in his garage along with his securely parked Corvette.
Quite correctly, President Biden referred to former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago as “totally irresponsible.” Well, here’s the thing, Vice President Biden’s handling of classified documents had also been irresponsible. Biden apparently removed two sets of classified documents after his vice presidency ended. His flippant comment that one batch of secret documents was as safely stored in his garage as was his vintage Corvette drew few laughs. So, now we have Special Counsels investigating a past president and a sitting president for, well, dereliction of duty, to say it plainly.
I won’t belabor the gift President Biden has presented to the new Republican House majority, which is now gleefully planning its own investigation of Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Now, it is true that unlike Trump, Biden, or his people, alerted federal officials that they had discovered the problem, returned the secret stash, and promised to assist investigators fully. Well, that’s commendable and, perhaps, mitigating. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Biden was no more careful than Trump and doesn’t excuse the President for any legal infractions implicit in all these documents sitting in his old office, his Delaware home, or his Corvette’s garage.
This colossal unforced error by President Biden is manna from heaven for the Republicans. It will essentially cancel out the political blowback President Trump had brought on himself by his boorish and ridiculous hoarding of classified, top-secret documents.
Jim Jordan, the new House Judiciary Chair, has already hyperventilated (he’s always hyperventilating) that “the double standard is obvious” (between the Trump hoarding of classified documents and Biden’s discovery of classified documents in his possession). Jordan knows perfectly well that the FBI needed a search warrant to search Mar-a-Lago because Trump refused to hand over all of the documents the Federal Archives knew he had. On the other hand, Biden immediately sent the classified documents back to the National Archives as soon as they were discovered.
Trump’s handling of classified documents was irresponsible, arrogant, and possibly criminal. He insists he had the right to make them his own by simply deciding they were his. Biden’s handling of classified documents was also irresponsible and undoubtedly careless. While Biden notified the proper authorities last November that classified documents were discovered to have been in his possession long after he left office as Vice President, he made no public disclosure of the infraction. We have heard no explanation of why classified documents were in his residence long after his term as Vice President ended.
As far as we know, about ten classified documents were found, some in Biden’s office, some in his Delaware residence, and some in his garage. Upon finding them, his attorneys immediately notified the authorities and returned them to the Archives the following day.
According to a Justice Department affidavit, 184 documents were discovered at Mar-a-Lago, of which sixty-seven were classified as “confidential,” ninety-two were marked “secret,” and twenty-five were designated as “top secret.”
The law regarding the handling of classified documents is unambiguous. New Rule, as Bill Maher would say, Obey the Law!