Monday, July 25, 2016

Oh, Mike Pence Is Much Much Worse Than Tim Kaine-- No Comparison! So?


It's an extraordinarily low bar but Kaine is better than Penzzzzzzzzz

Someone on Twitter was trying to promote the idea that putting Tim Kaine first in the line to presidential succession was not just less terrible than putting Mike Pence there but actually a good thing... and used as evidence a link showing that Pete Peterson's Fix the Debt operation-- whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Social Security and Medicare-- named Kaine a Fiscal Hero, along with other such well-respected and beloved political figures of the American center-right as John Boehner (R-OH), Jim Himes (New Dem-CT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Steny Hoyer (D-K Street), Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). I had just cast the deciding vote on a committee discussing whether or not to endorse Bennet for re-election to his Colorado Senate seat-- another lesser-of-two-evils choice being forced on the voters. (Happy to report that, Bennet, easily the lesser evil, isn't being endorsed.)

Peterson's operation defines Fiscal heroes as having "distinguished themselves by taking fiscally responsible votes, pushing their party leaders to make debt a priority, leading bipartisan efforts to work through policy options to fix the debt, using their town hall meetings to engage and educate constituents, delivering floor speeches to raise awareness about the issue, advocating to keep tough choices on the table, and introducing legislation to improve the nation's fiscal position. These elected officials have recognized that we will need to take a comprehensive approach to address the core drivers of the debt, such as entitlement reform and tax reform, to put it on a downward path in the long-term and allow the economy to thrive. Given that there is much more to be done to confront the nation's debt challenges, it is important that the work of those who focus on these issues is recognized."

Here, for example is wealthy, spoiled young Patrick Murphy, right after he was elected to Congress pretending to be a Democrat-- who didn't make the grade then but will soon, no doubt, going on TV and when asked what he would cut, twice volunteering Social Security and Medicare:

You know, one of the things that's wrong with settling for lesser-of-two evils candidates all the time-- we discussed it at greater length yesterday-- is that it means we have the wrong people making countless behind the scenes decisions daily. Tim Kaine is a shitty VP choice, not nearly as terrible as Pence, obviously, but certainly one I would ever want to see ascending to the presidency. His reasonable defenders-- not the ones bragging about how he's great for Wall Street and knows how to cut Social Security and Medicare-- point out that Planned Parenthood and NARAL have endorsed him (although he's "personally" anti-Choice), the Sierra Club supports him because he opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline, the AFL-CIO has given him a 98% lifetime rating, and that he stood up to the tobacco lobby and the gun manufacturers lobby while he was governor of Virginia. In fact, Kaine has a "F" from the NRA. That's all good... and I want to share something former Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina sent me today, which he already published at HuffPo. Remember, someone appoints all these decision-making bureaucrats:
These are words that I have never written-- or thought-- before and expect never to again: House Republicans are right.

On July 11, House Republicans issued a report on an investigation into the Department of Justice’s 2012 settlement with HSBC, the British megabank, for laundering $900 million for the Columbian and Mexican drug cartels and for regimes under international sanctions for nuclear proliferation, genocide and support for terrorism. The DOJ touted the $2 billion civil penalty as a “record,” but the penalty amounted to five weeks of profits for the bank taken from shareholder funds. There were no criminal charges.

Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, and Eric Holder, the Attorney General, both argued that the DOJ could not bring criminal charges because convictions might jeopardize the bank and the stability of the world’s financial system. But then Holder said his statement had been “misconstrued.”

Holder said “there are a number of factors that we have to take into consideration....Innocent people can be impacted by a prosecution....But let me be very, very, very clear. Banks are not too big to jail.” The DOJ would bring criminal charges where there was enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The congressional report concluded there was ample evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision not to pursue criminal charges was entirely because HSBC was “too big to jail.”

Executive branch cooperation in congressional investigations is seldom cheerful, but the DOJ flatly refused to produce any subpoenaed documents. The Department of Treasury grudgingly produced some documents redacted at DOJ’s request. The stated reason was that the withheld information pertained to “prosecutorial decisions.”

The courts have never precisely defined “executive privilege,” the protection of the confidentiality of some discussions about some decisions between some executive branch officials to encourage uninhibited debate. But this much is clear: there is no blanket protection for “prosecutorial deliberations.”

There is no government power more susceptible to dangerous abuse or more in need of constant independent scrutiny than the power to bring, or not to bring, criminal charges.

An aggressive Senate investigation exposed the Teapot Dome scandal almost a century ago. The Secretary of the Interior went to prison for taking bribes for no-bid petroleum leases on federal lands. The Senate also examined the Justice Department’s failure to investigate and prosecute the people involved.

The Supreme Court upheld the Senate’s authority to hold a subpoenaed witness in contempt for refusing to testify on the Justice Department’s conduct. The Court said the question whether the Justice Department’s “functions were being properly discharged or being neglected or misdirected...concerned a subject on which legislation could be had and would be materially aided by the information which the investigation was calculated to elicit.”

A decade ago the Bush Administration fired federal prosecutors who had brought prosecutions that hurt Republicans or failed to bring flimsy prosecutions that would hurt Democrats. Administration officials refused to comply with House subpoenas and the House went to court. The court rejected the Administration’s argument that the decision to fire prosecutors was entirely up to the President and none of Congress’s business. Congress had a “unique ability to address improper partisan influence in the prosecutorial process,” the court said, and “[n]o other institution will fill the vacuum if Congress is unable to investigate and respond to this evil.”

There is no evidence that DOJ’s decision to settle with HSBC was criminally corrupt or the product of improper partisan influence. Wall Street critics hotly dispute that criminal prosecution of HSBC executives would have threatened the financial system, but DOJ’s decision to settle was likely based on that concern, as Breuer and Holder first said. The obvious injustice is deeply offensive to most Americans.

Savvy Washington insiders avoid public debate with Wall Street critics, so some political functionary told Holder that he was off message.

House Republicans’ concern for the injustice of the settlement is patently insincere. House Republicans’ only motive is to embarrass the Obama Administration, not to side with Wall Street critics.

Certainly the investigation could inform legislation. Most obviously, any institution that seeks the special treatment that HSBC received should immediately be broken into small-enough-to-jail pieces. That is legislation House Republicans will never enact.

But political embarrassment punishes misconduct, including the misconduct of staying on a message that deviates from the unvarnished truth. Americans are entitled to know how the power they confer by their ballots is used. And Americans are entitled to know if some powerful financial institutions receive special treatment in the criminal justice system.

A great American political scientist, Woodrow Wilson, wrote in 1885 that the “proper duty of a representative body [is] to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees...The informing function of Congress is to be preferred even to its legislative function.”

If congressional oversight causes political functionaries to hesitate to tell presidential appointees to stay on messages that are varnished versions of the truth out of fear of embarrassment, then that would be a wholesome result.
Can you keep this tucked away in the back of your mind? Some day we will will prevail on Miller to jump back into electoral politics-- so far we've come up short-- and at that time, we'll need to fight really hard for him. There aren't many Democrats willing to advance this kind of embarrassing narrative about the kind of corruption that has no place in democratic governance. Meanwhile, though, please consider helping get Alan Grayson into the U.S. Senate instead of either of the 2 Wall Street lackeys, Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio, opposing him.

Goal Thermometer

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