Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: This Is Yuge



Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday which means that it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, news of the day: Day two of Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington.  If the Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before a senate committee revealed anything, it is we have 20th-century politicians who cannot keep up in a 21st-century world.  The mostly elderly men on House Energy and Commerce Committee laid bare the fact that they have no clue about the social media and how it works.  In all fairness, neither do an overwhelming majority of people around the globe.  Be that as it may, the obviously coached Mr. Zuckerberg did his best to answer the members sometimes ridiculous questions.  He seemed to favor some oversight on the social media but bristled at regulation.  He did reveal that his Facebook profile was compromised by Cambridge Analytics.  What happens next is anyone's guess.  One thing is for sure, lawmakers need to do a lot more hands-on social media homework.  Blogger suggests that the senators sit down with their social media director and have him or her give them a tutorial on how it works.  Perhaps the senators should also follow Senator Kamala Harris' (D-CA) example and read the privacy agreement before going forward.  At the very least, they should ask their grandchildren about the social media.  Alright, onto the big news of the day.

The big news of the day is the announcement that Speaker of the House of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will not seek re-election at the end of his current term.  This is not just big news, it is very big news because it further imperils the Republican majority in the house and increases the likelihood of impeachment.  

Speaker Ryan cited a desire to spend more time with his family and satisfication with the job he did as speaker.  Of course the Internet was lightening quick to excoriate Speaker Ryan with comments like, Paul take the money and run Ryan and Paul Runnin.  Other comments made note of the fact that Mr. Ryan gets to keep his healthcare for life after trying to take it away from millions of Americans.  In 2012, then-Representative Ryan was tapped to be Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney's (R-MA) running mate. In 2015, Rep Ryan grudgingly accepted the position of Speaker of the House after former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stepped down.  In 2016, he did not readily embrace then-candidate Donald Trump; calling his comments on Mexicans and Muslims textbook racism--eventually he supported Mr. Trump and was heavily criticized as an enabling or normalizing Mr. Trump.  Many hoped that he would grown a spine and stand up to a president who prefers to do whatever he wants but that never happened.  Praise for Paul Ryan's legacy of tax cuts and increased military spending stands in stark contrast to the string of policy failures.  What does that mean for the midterm elections only seven months away?

In terms of the House Republicans, the competition for Speaker Ryan's job as leader of the party heats up.  Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca) and Steve Scalise (R-La) have emerged as the top two contenders for Speaker of the House, should the Republican retain the majority.  The operative word being should.  Speaker Ryan's retirement, along with 39 other House Republicans, means that House Democrats now need to win 23 seats to flip the House and return House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) to the Speaker's podium.  Further, Speaker Ryan was facing an unusually strong challenge from Democrat Randy Bryce.  

Mr. Bryce is an iron worker and union organizer nicknamed "IronStache" who now has a clearer path to winning Wisconsin's first district.  Mr. Bryce was recently added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "red to blue" list of candidates likely to flip Republican districts (vox.com; Apr. 11, 2018). The Bryce campaign has already raised close to $5 million, with 75 percent of the donations in Clements of $200 or less (Ibid).  Bryce campaign communication director Lauren HItt said in a statement,

Paul Ryan decided to quit today rather than face Randy Bryce and the voters,.... With nearly $5 million raided to date, a strong field program aided by organized labor, a broad coalition of support locally and nationally, Randy Bryce is incredibly well positioned to be the next Representative for the First Districts. Electorates far more conservative than Wisconsin's First have already elected Democrats in special elections in Wisconsin and across the country.  (Ibid)

Cook Political Report rated the district R+5, and Democrats are averaging an 8-point advantage in generic ballots. (Ibid).  In other words, this is a toss-up district but Paul Ryan's retirement announcement gives the edge to Mr. Bryce.  This race should be a wild one.  Now it is time to address the impeachment elephant in the room.

If you have been following the news over the last few days, you have seen the stories of Mr. Donald Trump threatening to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in order to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Allow Blogger to quickly recap things, Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation when his name surfaced as someone who might have been involved with possible collusion.  In his stead, Deputy AG Rosenstein took over the investigation and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.  Contrary to what the president may think, he does not have the power to directly fire Mr. Mueller.  Instead, he would have to dismiss Deputy AG Rosenstein in order to fire Mr. Mueller.  However, that would not end the investigation.  Mr. Mueller would still have to submit a final report to the House of Representatives who could still decide whether or not to proceed with impeachment.  Where does Speaker Ryan's announcement fit into the scheme of things?

Right now, 9 in 10 Democrats disapprove of the president's performance as the special counsel's investigation closes in on the White House (cnbc.com; Apr. 11, 2018).  The FBI search of Mr. Trump's personal attorney Michael D. Cohen's office and hotel room on Monday further tightened the vice around the president.  Whether or not that search yields anything related to Russian interference in the 2016 election remains to be seem. What is known is that House Democratic leader could not prevent an impeachment drive next year even if they considered it counterproductive (Ibid).

Speaker Paul Ryan was tasked with the unbearable job of lead apologist for the president.  That meant ignoring his tantrums and ever changing policy positions.  If the Repbulicans did retain some measure of control in the House and Speaker Ryan remained on the job, he would be saddled with the burden of defended the president from possible impeachment (chicagotribune.com; Apr. 11, 2018).  Now that the president instituted trade tariffs on Chinese made goods, something the Speaker deeply opposes, his retirement is an admission that he has had enough.  Just think how much more stressful it will be if and when the special counsel delivers a report that makes the case for impeachment (Ibid).

Interestingly, Republican candidates have seized on impeachment as campaign issue.  This strategy is being used to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between moderate and liberal Democrats: "warning that Democrats will try to mpeachthe president if they win back the House (politico.com; Apr. 9, 2018; date accessed Apr. 11, 2018).  What began as conservative political hyperbole--bold type fund raising pitches screaming about a looming 'American' coup-- has now made its way into the main stream (Ibid).  This is a really bad idea.  The midterms are typically a referendum on the party in power. The American voters already have a dim view of Congress.  A smart candidate, from either party, would focus on local issues, not on national issues.  Telling your constituents that you would vote for impeachment or Department of Justice and the Democratic National Committee are planning to over throw a duly elected president is not going to work.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan's announcement of his plans to retire at the end of his term has further dispirited an already gloomy Republican Party and further increased the likelihood that impeachment will be on the 2019 Congressional agenda.  The next several months should be a wild ride so hang on to your hats and other apparel.