Category Archives: Impeachment

MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue

After Donald Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the Democrats and the mainstream media they shape sought to explain the disaster as a result of Russian meddling. Such meddling, which had been alleged for months, was documented in an (unconvincing) intelligence report prepared by the lame-duck Obama administration, made public Jan. 6, 2017; Congress followed up, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference and possible collusion between any Russians and the Trump team. After two years the report concluded that there was no evidence of collusion, causing many downcast looks among news anchors reporting the bad news. Suddenly Trump’s impeachment–for which the MSNBC and CNN anchors openly cheer–looked less likely.

I for my part was happy to see closure to the Russiagate farce. (If in fact that has happened. Some seem hell-bent on never letting it die.) It was all along an opportunistic application of Cold War Russophobia to the effort to topple Trump. It had been painful to watch so many Democrat Party shills, including progressive African-American women, railing about Russian interference in “our” elections as though this had truly happened, was an “attack on our country” and had brought Trump to power! Nonsense.

We hear little lately about Trump and the Russian connection; it’s now all about Trump and the people of this country. The current case for impeachment rests on Trump’s racism (now routinely referred to by reporters, matter of factly, in their “objective” news reporting), his divisiveness, his spreading of hate. This racist category pertains to Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants, his fear-mongering about an “invasion,” his targeting of African-American critics, his declared “nationalism,” his dog-whistle appeals to the white nationalists, etc. Trump has been accused of racism for years but never so routinely, journalistically.

The solution to Trump? The most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who claims he’s the best option to defeat the racist, polarizing president and bring people together again. Credit Card Joe is surely Wall Street’s pick, and he’s the apparent favorite of the DNC. (Biden presided over the gay wedding in May 2017 of DNC treasurer Henry R. Munoz III.) He preaches a return to normalcy, declaring that if Trump has one term, it will call the Trump era something that will “go down as an aberration, an anomaly. But eight years will fundamentally change the nature of who we are.” So let’s avert disaster, and return to the responsible government we enjoyed in the Obama-Biden period!

The Democratic Party has long been the more anti-racist party, championing civil rights laws, recruiting people of color. It has become increasingly the party of identity politics, sometimes at the expense of progressive economic politics. It radiates pride in its promotion of racial and gender equality, just as the Republicans project pride in their promotion of a traditional white-dominated America based on love of God and country.

Targeting Trump as a racist makes sense, of course, it being the truth. He is not one of the most egregious type of racists, overtly embracing a Nazi-like ideology. But he has discriminated against African-Americans in his real estate businesses, used the n-word, questioned a Hispanic judge’s objectivity in handing a case involving himself, praised “both sides” in Charlottesville, used highly offensive language in tweets attacking women of color. He himself of course has said repeatedly that he is “the least racist person on earth,” while (in his usual “counterpunch”) accusing Rev. Al Sharpton of being (presumably anti-white) racist. He is too old, too disconnected, too surrounded by racist strategists, too insensitive to see the racism in himself.

The question is: if Trump’s racism (as opposed to the now-discredited Russian ties, or other issues including his wreaking destruction on the world economy; dangerous foreign policies implemented by a gutted, understaffed State Department; manifestations of mental illness) becomes the key charge, whether in the impeachment hearings more and more Democrats crave, and/or in the election next year, how will Trump’s forces react?

One imagines the Trump supporters include self-defining, proud racists, white supremacists. But surely most would deny being racist, and probably argue that Trump’s tweets if sometimes over the top aren’t racist either. We’re talking about maybe more than half the white population. (Trump won 58% of white non-Hispanic votes in 2016.) Polls do not indicate that Trump’s base is dissipating; they have not been so dismayed by his racist words and policies that they would abandon him.

We thus have a society more polarized than ever in recent history on matters of race. At least a third of the people are comfortable with Trump’s characterizations of Muslims and Mexicans. Decades of work by progressive and radical left groups has produced landmark legislation and considerable positive social change. But part of the country has either been unmoved by all this, or rejected it in part; white fear of blacks and Hispanics advancing at their expense, or acquiring to much influence in popular culture, remains a powerful political phenomenon. White supremacist groups seem to be growing.

*****

I see MSNBC has become positively hostile to Bernie Sanders, absurdly comparing him to Trump as a populist appealing to the alienated with vague proposals for change, notably universal health care, which the anchors pooh-pooh as unrealistic. They keep repeating that Bernie has been dropping in the polls without mentioning how they are doing their best to make that happen. By rooting for Biden in general, but also Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg, as acceptable alternatives to Biden. But not Bernie.

MSNBC was instrumental in getting Trump the Republican nomination. Joe and Mika treated their friend with kid-gloves in 2015, perhaps hoping with John Podesta, whom we know from a leaked memo wanted Trump or Carver to get the nomination (as an easy defeat). MSNBC and CNN both favored Hillary Clinton all along during her campaign and worked both to limit Sanders’ exposure and to dismiss him as a mere hero to quixotic youth.

MSNBC repeatedly denounces “socialism” in principle, in general, treating the very word and concept as “toxic.” (MSNBC is one big advertisement for the conclusion that, goddam it, kids, socialism is dead!)

But racism is alive, and Trump is the Racist-in-Chief! So vote for someone who can win against him! That means maximum outrage at Trump and his tweets, minimal attention to the capitalism he personifies. Anybody who can defeat Trump! Danny Deutsch, host of an MSNBC program, “marketing professional” and political commentator in Morning Joe, has actually said on air that he would vote for Trump over Sanders. Capitalism over socialism, even bogus-socialism. Don’t even use the word, he says.

But, whatever the DNC thinks, capitalism is in fact the central issue, and those who understand this, and understand the need for some form of socialism, should not shut up in deference to capitalist propagandists like Deutsch and the whole MSNBC crew that reflects its advertisers’ ruling-class ideology. How could it be otherwise?

Just as the workers of the world have no country, we in this country have no anti-capitalist party poised anywhere close to a seizure of power. We have the two-party capitalist rot, with the party in power increasingly (if not quite) fascistic, the other evermore politically correct and rooted in identity politics but loath to take on Wall Street or even discuss the real problems.

“Don’t be silly,” laughed DNC head Debbie Wassermann-Schultz in 2016, as Bernie won primary after primary. “Bernie will never win.” How silly to think MSNBC would now give respectful treatment to Sanders.

Let pompous Joe pontificate and mild Mika mumble sweet encouragement as they both try to impose Biden on the people. Assuring us he’s still favored in the polls. Glossing over his gaffes. Doing for Biden what they did for Clinton, this time working to end the anomaly and restore–what?–law and order? Biden and Harris both have strong records on that.

Failure to Impeach Trump Is a Way to Reaffirm Him

Would the American people re-elect a president caught in the midst of a multi-faceted impeachment inquiry? One never knows.

Or would the American people be more likely to re-elect a president free from any impeachment inquiry?

With no commanding presidential candidate likely to emerge till well after the Iowa caucus on February 3, 2020, the center of Democratic Power is now in the House of Representatives, largely in the hands of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is so determined to give Trump a pass on impeachment that Trump’s lawyers cite her position in their court briefs. That seems like a pretty bad place for a supposed opposition party to find itself.

Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders have indicated a willingness to pursue impeachment if “the people want it.” Then the same leaders do little or nothing to encourage the people to want it. That is the opposite of leadership. That is also a failure to understand how the impeachment of Richard Nixon became supportable through the conscientious evidence-gathering that persuaded the public that Nixon had committed impeachable offenses.

Pelosi is slippery to the point of dishonesty on the question of impeachment. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a long wet-kiss article titled “It’s Nancy’s Parade” in the Sunday Times of July 7. Dowd asked Pelosi if she had said about Trump, as reported, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” That’s a classic false-choice deflection to begin with, but Pelosi danced it disingenuously further:

I didn’t exactly say that…. You can’t impeach everybody. People wanted Reagan impeached but that didn’t happen. O.K., they impeached Clinton for something so ridiculous — getting impeached for doing a dumb thing as a guy. Then they wanted to impeach Obama…. [Trump] has given real cause for impeachment.

This is scattershot distraction Trump-style, seeming to make some point while avoiding the underlying question. If Trump, as Pelosi says, “has given real cause for impeachment,” then why has the House not begun to impeach him?

There is a glaring omission in Pelosi’s list of recent presidents – Reagan, Clinton, Obama, but neither Bush. The second Bush lied the country into war, a war that continues to cost us. Even that was not enough for Pelosi. She opposed impeaching Bush for the war crimes he so plainly committed. Does she lack principle? Does she lack courage? Does she always make her decisions on the narrowest partisan political calculation? What is really going on?

Democrats have the power to initiate impeachment proceedings. Democrats have the power to control the pace of those proceedings. There are numerous impeachable offenses, in almost every area – climate, immigration, census, war-making, regulating contrary to statute, emoluments – the list of failures to faithfully execute the laws or the office of the President is long and easily demonstrated. Even Pelosi says, “he every day practically self-impeaches by obstructing justice and ignoring the subpoenas” – which he is allowed to do with impunity.

There are about 80 Democratic House members reportedly in favor of moving ahead on impeachment. That leaves another 155 Democratic House members either uncommitted or opposed to impeachment. These Democrats are not outspoken on the question and many of them oppose impeaching a flagrantly dishonest, probably criminal president mainly because it might put their own re-election at risk. No profiles in courage there. We saw them flex their muscles recently when they forced Pelosi to capitulate on protecting immigrant children and accept the Senate bill that would do little to assure that the Department of Homeland Security follows the law.

Pelosi misleadingly talks about impeachment, characterizing it as if it’s a compact, unitary event. It’s not. “Impeachment” itself is only a formal accusation, a Congressional indictment that requires an investigation of uncertain length by the House Judiciary Committee, including having hearings, drawing of articles of impeachment, publicly debating and voting on them, and delivering those approved to the full House for a final vote. Only then do the articles of impeachment go to the Senate for a trial of indeterminate length and a final vote.

The impeachment process for Bill Clinton began in January 1994 with the appointment of a special prosecutor (Ken Starr took over in August 1994). The process ended more than five years later when the Senate acquitted Clinton on February 12, 1999.

The impeachment process for Richard Nixon began formally with the creation of the Senate Watergate Committee in February 1973, less than eight months after the Watergate burglary. The House Judiciary Committee started its investigation in October, voting for articles of impeachment at the end of July 1974. Nixon resigned on August 9, before the full House considered the impeachment articles. That abbreviated impeachment process took about 550 days.

As of July 9, the November 3, 2020, presidential election was 483 days away. That is plenty of time for the House Judiciary Committee to accomplish something meaningful without having to risk defeat in the Senate.

So it’s a calculated question for 2020: Would a prolonged, careful, substantive impeachment inquiry make Trump stronger or weaker by election day? Would a prolonged period of sniping at Trump’s faults, without daring to impeach him, make Trump stronger or weaker on election day? Regardless of who the Democratic candidate turns out to be, it seems more likely that he or she will be strengthened by a House impeachment inquiry carried on with integrity before the election. Yes, it will be partisan, but that is offset if it is also principled. But first, Pelosi has to help it happen. According to Dowd:

Now Pelosi is in her element, ready for the fight of her life with Trump…. Pelosi keeps moving forward, a shark with a permagrin…. If combating an inhumane Trump requires a superhuman effort, Pelosi may be just the woman to do it.

But Dowd does not say how this will be done. She supports the hope with an anecdote about Pelosi carrying on bravely at an Irish political event just after having her right hand smashed in a car door. This shows grit, to be sure. But it was only for one night, and the struggle with Trump has more than a year to go.

Reflecting the traditional political timidity of mainline Democrats, Pelosi has taken potshots at fellow Democrats in the House like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, mocking the Green New Deal, or Ilhan Omar, reinforcing the right wing’s anti-Semitic canard. Pelosi has demonstrated that, in a pinch, she does not have their backs or Rashida Tlaib’s or Ayanna Pressley’s. Pelosi againdenigrated all four women of color to Dowd. This is ugly, gratuitous infighting, not principled leadership. Little wonder, perhaps, that Corbin Trent, an aide to Ocasio-Cortez, told reporter Ryan Grim that the Democratic leadership is “driven by fear. They seem to be unable to lead.”

“The greatest threat to mankind,” according to Trent, a co-founder of Justice Democrats, “is the cowardice of the Democratic Party.”

The Democrats Pelosi denigrates are all agents of change. Pelosi talks about defeating Trump, but she doesn’t embrace much change of any other sort. She cavils at the more ambitious proposals of Democratic presidential candidates. Why has the House pushed so little legislation that challenges the status quo? Is there anything Pelosi truly believes in besides herself? Dowd characterizes her as the most powerful woman in the country (with Trump the most powerful man). She seems to have made the calculation that she’d rather preserve her speaker-ship than take any serious risk. Are the ambitions of a 79-year-old multimillionaire really more important than the good of the country?

“An Impeachable Offence”: Professor Postol and Syria

It is hard to believe that just three weeks ago the entire corporate media was in uproar over Syria; specifically, about the need to ‘do something’ in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, Syria, on April 4. Guardian commentator George Monbiot summed up the corporate media zeitgeist:

Do those who still insist Syrian govt didn’t drop chemical weapons have any idea how much evidence they are denying?

Monbiot linked to evidence supplied by Bellingcat, an organisation hosted by Eliot Higgins. In a 2014 letter to the London Review of Books, Richard Lloyd and Ted Postol, described by the New York Times as ‘leading weapons experts’, dismissed Higgins as ‘a blogger who, although he has been widely quoted as an expert in the American mainstream media, has changed his facts every time new technical information has challenged his conclusion that the Syrian government must have been responsible for the sarin attack [in Ghouta, August 2013]. In addition, the claims that Higgins makes that are correct are all derived from our findings, which have been transmitted to him in numerous exchanges’.

Professor Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has an impressive record of fearlessly debunking propaganda. For example, the Pentagon declared the Patriot missile system no less than 98% successful at intercepting and destroying Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. After careful examination, Postol found that the Patriot’s success rate was rather less impressive:

It became clear that it wasn’t even close to intercepting any targets, let alone some targets.1

Postol has now challenged a White House report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib. He notes:

The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government [air force] is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun.

But Postol claims that the White House’s photographic evidence ‘clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin’.

He adds:

I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report… was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.

Postol’s conclusion could hardly be more damning:

I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.

Postol recently told The Nation:

What I think is now crystal clear is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.

He added:

My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack…. It may be that the White House staff was worried that this could eventually come out—a reckless president acting without regard to the nation’s security, risking an inadvertent escalation and confrontation with Russia, and a breakdown in cooperation with Russia that would cripple our efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

If that is not an impeachable offense, then I do not know what is.

Robert Parry, an investigative reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, comments:

On April 11, five days after Trump’s decision to attack the Syrian airbase, Trump’s White House released a four-page “intelligence assessment” that offered another alleged motivation, Khan Sheikhoun’s supposed value as a staging area for a rebel offensive threatening government infrastructure. But that offensive had already been beaten back and the town was far from the frontlines.

In other words, there was no coherent motive for Assad to have dropped sarin on this remote town. There was, however, a very logical reason for Al Qaeda’s jihadists to stage a chemical attack and thus bring pressure on Assad’s government. (There’s also the possibility of an accidental release via a conventional government bombing of a rebel warehouse or from the rebels mishandling a chemical weapon – although some of the photographic evidence points more toward a staged event.)

We have no idea who was responsible for the mass killings in Idlib on April 4; we are not weapons experts. But it seems obvious to us that arguments and evidence offered by credible sources like Postol should at least be aired by the mass media. As Parry writes:

The role of an honest press corps should be to apply skepticism to all official stories, not carry water for “our side” and reject anything coming from the “other side,” which is what The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the Western mainstream media have done, especially regarding Middle East policies and now the New Cold War with Russia.

Our search of the Lexis database (April 26) finds that no UK newspaper article has mentioned the words ‘Postol’ and ‘Syria’ in the last month. In our April 12 media alert, we noted that former and current UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix, Scott Ritter and Jerry Smith, as well as former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi, had all questioned the official narrative of what happened on April 4. Lexis finds these results for UK national newspapers:

‘Blix’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits

‘Ritter’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits

‘Jerry Smith’ and Syria = 1 hit

‘Giraldi’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits.

It is remarkable that, even after the deceptions of Iraq and Libya, journalists are so unwilling to report credible evidence challenging the US government’s version of events. This is made even more shocking by the fact that Trump has not, of course, been treated with the respect and deference usually reserved for US presidents. Rather, he has been subjected to a barrage of relentless and damning criticism. And yet, in response to his illegal bombing of a foreign country, the press has not only dropped its usual criticism, but showered Trump with praise while suppressing reasoned criticism. Yet more evidence that corporate journalism is dangerously corrupted by political and economic forces demanding Perpetual War.

  1. Postol, quoted, Great Military Blunders, Channel 4, March 2, 2000