Americans Should Want Trump to Remain President

The Constitution specifies that should a President leave office before the end of the term, the Vice President becomes President and names a new Vice President with the consent of Congress.

Americans need to know Vice President Pence

Vice President Pence is that gray-haired, quiet shadow seen frequently lurking behind Donald Trump. To some, he epitomizes a long standing joke about Vice Presidents.

A woman had two sons. One became a merchant marine. The other became vice President. Neither were ever heard of again.

Pence maintains the image of a rare stable member of a an extremely unstable administration — the uncontroversial second to an extremely controversial Trump. He has given the impression of the incorruptible individual in the midst of the most corrupt administration in American history.

But as Vice President he has faithfully followed the direction of Trump. He follows every Trumpish wish. He breaks ties in the Senate toward the extreme right. In this way he secures for himself the loyalty of Trump’s base. What would he be like if he came out from Trump’s shadow and was President?

The evidence from his time as governor of Indiana is that he would be consistently as far right as Trump is erratically. He would have the solid support of the base and the Freedom Caucus in the Congress. Unlike Trump, Pence has served in Congress, knows how it works and has personal connections with Republican members of Congress. There is every indication that the far right would very much like to see him, rather than Trump, in the White House — preferably after noon January 20.

Next year?

Under the Constitution, if Trump were to resign, be removed from office or die after noon January 20, 2019, Pence would become President of the United States and able to serve out the remainder of Trump’s term of office. Pence would be President in 2020, eligible to run as the incumbent President in that year and, if elected, again in 2024. In other words, the far right Republican Party could control the White House for twelve years, ten of which would be by President Pence.

The advocates of impeachment seem to have visions that Pence could be impeached at the same time as Trump. That seems unlikely to me. So far there is little evidence of Pence being involved in “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Purely partisan attempts at impeachment — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — have not fared well in the Senate.

Can Democrats successfully remove Trump?

I rather doubt this. Even if both the House and Senate in the 116th Congress are controlled by the Democratic Party, there are several things that could happen along the way.

  • The Democratic majority of the Judicial Committee could draft articles of impeachment which, for some reason failed to get a majority vote in the House. In this case Trump is vindicated.
  • The House could vote articles of impeachment, but the Senate would fail to convict — which takes 67 votes. That is mathematically impossible if the vote is on party lines. In this case also, Trump is vindicated.
  • The House could impeach and the Senate convict. In this case Pence becomes President.

A President Pence would undoubtedly veto any measure coming from the Congress attempting to roll back the damage done by Republicans under Trump and the Republican 115th Congress.

What should Democrats do?

I think the priority should be to win a majority in the Senate. With the necessary votes, they will hold all committee chairs and the majority in every committee. They can block nominations coming from the White House. They can give Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley a dose of their own — not holding hearings and confirmation votes on judges, including to the Supreme Court. They can block any Republican nonsense coming from either the Senate or House. They can pass legislation advancing voting rights, immigration reform, jobs, etc., even if these don’t become law. The would, however, be campaign issue Democrats could use in 2020. But remember, gaining a majority in the Senate will be extremely difficult. Of the 34 Senate seats on the ballot this fall, only eight are held by Republicans.

Flipping the House is more likely. Democrats should try to win as many as possible. The House can block any Republican nonsense coming from the White House, the Senate or the Freedom Caucus in the House.  A Democratic House can also enact a legislative program in the House similar to the one I suggest for the Senate. Enact laws that can be used to win an overwhelming public support in 2020, even if those are vetoed by the Republican President.

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Looking towards Doomsday

With Trump in the White House, the Doomsday Clock was moved to two minutes until global catastrophe in January of this year. Yesterday we were moved even closer to global nuclear war.

Following the 19th century Napoleonic Wars, Europe settled into decades of peace “guaranteed” by a doctrine of Balance of Powers. It notion was that with each “side” possessing equal military forces no nation could win a war and so would not start a war. That peace ended on on 28 June 1914 when Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria  in Sarajevo, Serbia, on 28 June 1914. That caused Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia. Because Serbia had a mutual defense agreement with Russia, Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary and ordered a general mobilization. That posed a threat to Germany which declared war on Russia. That, in turn, lead to France and England declaring war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. In a sense,  the doctrine of Balance of Powers worked in that the war stalemated with devastating losses to both sides. It was not until the United States entered the war that one side gained the advantage to end the war on behalf of England and France, with Germany and Austria-Hungary being the losers. World War I also caused the fall of Czarist Russia to communism and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire — which is in the background to today’s chaos in the Middle East. The humiliating defeat, the punishing Versailles Treaty and the failure of Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the League of Nations were contributing factors to the rise of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy and World War II.

The moral of all this is that a relatively unimportant event can trigger a world catastrophe.

Following the first use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States, the discredited 19th century Balance of Power doctrine was replaced by a doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. The arms race and Cold War were underway — the norm for the Baby Boomers and afterwards. The notion was that the nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union had the capacity to respond to any attack with an overwhelming counter attack. Along with this policy was a doctrine of first strike; if a nuclear power unleashed a massive attack on a perceived enemy, it might protect itself by destroying most, if not all of the enemy’s nuclear capacity. A parallel policy of first use also came into play; if a nuclear power in a convention war was losing, it might gain an upper hand by first use of nuclear weapons.

The best known case of near nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union is the Cuban Missile Crisis. No doubt nuclear armed missiles posed a grave threat to the United States; but the Soviet arming of Cuba was a response to the nuclear missiles close to Soviet territory in Europe by the United States and NATO. But there have been other examples of near misses caused by “operator error” or some miscue in defensive warning systems.

In 1964 the movie, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, was based on the premise that a rogue officer was able to initiate a first strike leading to the mutual destruction of New York City and Moscow as a means to avoiding a nuclear holocaust. Another movie in 1983, WarGames, was based on the premise that a war games computer nearly triggered a Global Thermonuclear War. While both are fiction, they present realistic possibilities about how a world nuclear catastrophe could be triggered.

There are a number of books by authors who have some knowledge of the most top secret strategies of the American government concerning nuclear war. Among them are Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and Michael McFaul’s Decline of American Influence and From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. All discuss the extreme danger we face in a world in which there are multiple nuclear powers. In addition to the United States and Russia, nuclear powers include France, India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. Until the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, and China as well as the United Nations Security Council and the European Union Iran was developing a nuclear capacity. It should be noticed that many of these powers are conflicted with others: Pakistan and India, Israel and Iran, the United States and Russia. They are in a position to “start something” that would quickly escalate into a major, nuclear World War III.

Trump has withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iranian nuclear agreement). Whether or not Iran will continue to honor the agreement with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, China, European Union and United Nations Security Council remains to be seen. Trump has indicated that the United States will punish Iran with sanctions. What effect that will have remains to be seen. It is possible that American businesses will continue to do business with Iran through intermediaries. To prevent that Trump would have to also sanction other countries doing business with Iran. This would sever relationships with our allies and disrupt international trade. If Iran should resume development of nuclear weapons, Israel might well decide on a first strike attack on Iran. What that could trigger would be catastrophic.

I wonder how this action will affect the upcoming summit talks with North Korea. Why should North Korea’s Kim trust any agreement with the United States given the example of the withdrawal from the agreement with Iran? So there is another “hot spot” affected by Trump’s action.

What with the developing trade wars, the erratic policies of the United States under Trump, the increasing power of American hawks in the administration and now the withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement, we are closer to World War III than before. Any spark could ignite this “powder keg,” just as an assassination triggered World War I — the “war to end all wars.”

 

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Obsessions and the State of the World

Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.

The media these days is obsessed with sex scandals that crowd out urgent news. Granted that I was not raised to think of the opposite, or even the same, sex as “sex objects.” Nor was I raised to abuse others. Nor am I saying that the media should ignore sexual wickedness in high places. But obsession is too much attention if it like a weed crowds out other flora.

With the focus on entertainment and political sexual misbehavior, many urgent issues are getting scant attention.

  • The opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. We should take notice of this in relationship to the administration’s policy in the Middle East. The move inflames the tensions between Palestinians and Israel.
  • The imminent withdrawal by the United States from the Iranian nuclear agreement. While the other signatories of the agreement may save us from our folly, what the world does not need is an Iran with nuclear weapons capable of targeting Israel.
  • The nuclear superpowers, Russia and the United States, have conflicting interests in the Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc. “Local wars” in this area are likely to involve Russia and the United States.
  • While the administration is boasting about the success of its belligerent policy toward North Korea, the summit has not yet been held and no one knows what may or may not come of it. It should be obvious that South Korea’s willingness to enter into a closer relationship with North Korea is as much a concern about its American ally and a potential war in Korea which no one will win as any real accomplishment of the American “policy.”
  • A war in the Korean peninsula, like a war in the Middle East, has a potential to drag China as well as Russia and the United States.
  • There is also continuing tensions between Pakistan and India which could lead to nuclear war between those two. Could the United States and Russia stay out of that?
  • These are all scenarios that could lead to a nuclear World War III.
  • Then there is the massive corruption in the federal (and not a few state and local governments) unlike anything we have seen before.
  • The Russians attacked the American (and European) elections in 2016. They are attacking American elections in 2018 and our administration is doing nothing to counter that cyber warfare.
  • Bannon’s “deconstruction of the administrative state” goes on at an unprecedented rate. Environmental, safety, financial and health regulations are being trashed every day by this administration.
  • Poverty in the United States is on the rise and the middle class decimated.
  • Racism is rampant and growing worse.
  • The flow of billions of dollars into our national, state and local elections and political systems from domestic and foreign special interests is drowning out democracy and the voice of the people.
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We Must Win the Senate!

Six months from today we will be learning the results of the 2018 midterm elections. This is one of the most important elections in my lifetime. The future of the Republic hangs in the balance.

Why we must win a majority in the Senate.

The Senate has three powers that the House does not have:
1. To confirm or not the President’s appointments to the judicial and executive branch,
2. To ratify or not treaties and
3. To convict or not on impeachment, conviction requiring a 2/3rds majority.
In addition, the Senate can block measures coming from the House of representatives.

Trump is currently appointing scores of young, far right, incompetent white males (rarely women) to the federal judiciary at the district and appellate levels, including the Supreme Court. These are lifetime appointments. Judges can only be removed by impeachment and conviction. He is also appointing singularly unqualified, corrupt individuals to executive positions. The only way to stop this is for Democrats to win a majority in the Senate.

Party does matter.

There are votes in the Senate which are always along party lines, even if there are party members who often vote with the opposition. The first such vote determines which party’s leader is the Senate majority leader. The Senate majority leader names the chairs of Senate committees and a majority of each committee’s membership. The Senate majority leader also determines what will come to the floor for debate and vote. In the past four years we have seen in the past four years what this means when Mitch McConnell has been the majority leader. He blocked confirmation of Judge Garland to the Supreme Court, giving us Gorsuch instead. He has blocked scores of Obama’s lower court appointments, which are now being filled with inappropriate appointments by Trump.

Arithmetic matters.

There are 100 Senators, a majority being 51. If both parties have 50 Senators, Vice President Pence, a right-wing, evangelical Republican, casts the deciding vote to break the tie. Currently there are 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.

On November 6, 2018 – less than six months from today, we will elect 34 Senators. 24 of those seats are currently held by Democrats, 2 by Independents and 8 by Republicans. To win a majority Democrats must hold all 24 seats held by Democrats, the two seats held by Independents and flip 2 or more seats currently held by Republicans. For every one of the 26 seats held by Democrats or Independents that the Republicans flip, Democrats must flip a Republican seat. That is a big challenge, as several of those Democratic Senators are from states that Trump carried in 2016.

Moral of this situation.
Democrats must focus on the 2018 midterm election. We do not have the luxury of speculation on the 2020 elections or rehashing the 2016 election. We do not enjoy the luxury of ideological purity. We do not enjoy the luxury of internecine bickering and division. UNITED WE STAND; DIVIDED WE FALL. And the Republic stands or falls with us.

Copyright © 2018 Kenneth Peck

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Eutychus the Scribe Returns!

For several years Euthycus the Scribe published a blog at eutychus.us. That domain is now gone. This blog is replacing the old blog with entirely new material. Unfortunately, the old blog has vanished into internet limbo.

Who is Eutychus the Scribe?

There are several notables by the name of Eutychus. My favorite is the one we hear about in the Acts of the Apostles. It is reported that he was a young follower of the way who was sitting in a window listening to a long sermon by the Apostle Paul. Eutychus, blazed the way for millions of Christians listening to sermons – he fell asleep. Unfortunately, he fell out the window to the street below and was killed. Fortunately, Paul paused in his sermon and resuscitated Eutychus. Having saved Eutychus, Paul continued the sermon concluding at dawn when he had to catch a boat to depart.

Of course, that isn’t the Scribe of this blog. It is a pseudonym used by Canicus Modius*, which is another alias of Kenneth Peck who, in this blog opines on subjects far and near, ancient and modern.
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* Canicus is Latin for the Celtic name, Cainnech (spelled variously), from which the modern name Kenneth derives. Modius is an ancient Roman measure nearly the same as the modern peck. Thus Canicus Modius is Latin for Kenneth Peck.

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