Bob Schwartz

Tag: politics

After the Virus: To seek a newer world

We do not and should not like paying the tragic price the Virus is demanding. But the current catastrophe, so far from over, does offer an opportunity to review, revise and, in some areas and in some ways, to begin again.

I’ve written before about the leaders I miss. No one more than Bobby Kennedy. He was a hard-nosed pragmatist and an idealist, a lover of literature and poetry. He frequently quoted the poem Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is the tale of an old warrior who fights the urge for ease and comfort, and sets out one more time to pursue a dream. The poem closes:

…Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Sen. Doug Jones says he is not a profile in courage for voting to convict the president. He is.

“After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress….Very early on I implored my colleagues in both houses of Congress to stay out of their partisan corners. Many did, but so many did not. The country deserves better.”

Statement to the Senate by Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat who may pay a political price in his 2020 reelection bid, about why his voting to convict Trump today is simply doing the right thing:

“On the day I was sworn in as a United States Senator, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. At the beginning of the impeachment trial, I took a second oath to do ‘impartial justice’ according to the same Constitution I swore to protect.

“These solemn oaths have been my guides during what has been a difficult time for our country, for my state, and for me personally. I did not run for Senate hoping to participate in the impeachment trial of a duly-elected President, but I cannot and will not shrink from my duty to defend the Constitution and to do impartial justice.

“In keeping with my oaths, I resolved that throughout this process I would keep an open mind and hear all of the evidence before making a final decision on the charges against the President. For months, I have been studying the facts of this case exhaustively. I have read thousands of pages of transcripts, watched videos of testimony, taken copious notes, reviewed history and precedents and discussed this case with colleagues, staff, and constituents, in addition to having participated in the Senate trial over the past two weeks. After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“With the eyes of history upon us, I am acutely aware of the precedents this impeachment trial will set for future presidencies and Congresses. Unfortunately, I do not believe those precedents are good ones. I am particularly concerned that we have now set a precedent that a fair trial in the Senate does not include witnesses and documentary evidence, even when those witnesses have first-hand information and the evidence would provide the Senate and the American people with a more complete picture of the truth.

“I am also deeply troubled by the partisan nature of these proceedings from start to finish. Very early on I implored my colleagues in both houses of Congress to stay out of their partisan corners. Many did, but so many did not. The country deserves better. We must find a way to rise above the things that divide us and find the common good.

“Having done my best to see through the fog of partisanship, I am deeply troubled by the arguments put forth by the President’s lawyers in favor of virtually unchecked presidential power. In this case, the evidence clearly proves the President used the weight of his office and that of the United States government to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in our election for his personal political benefit. The President’s actions placed his personal interests well above the national interests and threatened the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and our ally Ukraine. His actions were more than simply inappropriate. They were an abuse of power. With impeachment as the only check on such presidential wrongdoing, I felt I must vote to convict on the first charge of abuse of power.

“The second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, gave me even more pause. I have struggled to understand the House’s strategy in their pursuit of documents and witnesses and wished they had done more. However, after careful consideration of the evidence developed in the hearings, the public disclosures, the legal precedents, and the trial, I believe the President deliberately and unconstitutionally obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation in any way. While I am sensitive to protecting the privileges and immunities afforded to the President and his advisors, I believe it is critical to our constitutional structure that we protect Congress’ authorities also. In this matter it was clear from the outset that the President had no intention whatsoever of any accommodation with Congress when he blocked both witnesses and documents from being produced. In addition, he engaged in a course of conduct to threaten potential witnesses and smear the reputations of the civil servants who did come forward and provide testimony. The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand. To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward and no future President — Democrat or Republican — will be subject to Congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution.

“Senators are elected to make tough choices. We are required to study the facts of each issue before us and exercise our independent judgment in keeping with the oaths we take. The gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges, and the implications for future presidencies and Congresses all contributed to the difficulty with which I have arrived at my decision.

“This has been a divisive time for our country, but I think it has nonetheless been an important constitutional process for us to follow. As this chapter of history draws to a close, one thing is clear: our country deserves better than this. We must find a way to come together, to set aside partisan differences, and to focus on what we have in common as Americans. We are facing great challenges both domestically and internationally, but it remains my firm belief that united, we can conquer them and remain the greatest hope for people around the world.”

We knew Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Senator Joe Manchin, you are no Robert Byrd.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy? Why can this President not seem to see that America’s true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?
—Senator Robert Byrd, March 2003

Joe Manchin is a Democratic Senator from West Virginia. He is in a tough battle for re-election in a Trump state, and so he said today that Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in the impeachment trial, a Republican talking point. Hunter Biden is not a relevant witness by any measure. He is a collateral character with no direct knowledge of the president’s conduct—unlike John Bolton. Giving Machin the benefit of the doubt, we will say he is being political rather than uninformed.

Manchin sits in the Senate seat once held by West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. Byrd served in the Senate for over 51 years, from 1959 until his death in 2010. More than his tenure, and in spite of his repudiated earlier political life as a segregationist, no member of Congress has ever been a more knowledgeable and committed constitutionalist. At the drop of a hat, he would pull out a copy of the Constitution that he kept in the breast pocket of his jacket and would read from it.

Maybe Byrd’s shining hour was his unrelenting opposition to the Iraq War. He knew the Bush administration had not made its case, he knew that America was courting disaster, he knew that the future would not be benefited and would be indefinitely darkened by the war. Yet few members of Congress of either party opposed it.

Here is a speech he gave in March 2003 as the country marched to war. One more bit of evidence that in terms of judgment, Joe Manchin, you are no Robert Byrd:


I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today, I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of pre-emption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism.

We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe.

The case this administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The Twin Towers fell because a worldwide terrorist group, al-Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on 11 September and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of Western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names and many addresses.

But this administration has directed all of the anger, fear and grief which emerged from the ashes of the Twin Towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. We will probably drive Saddam Hussein from power. But the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to ‘orange alert’. There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America’s true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

Walt Whitman Visits the White House

The White House would benefit from many visitors. The founders of the republic, particularly the authors of the Federalist Papers. Abraham Lincoln would be a welcome presence. Above all, the current White House needs poetry, most especially the poet who most embodied, ahead of his time, the spirit of the ages taking form in the present American ideal.

As it happens, Walt Whitman recently visited the White House. This is how it went.

DJT: Who the hell are you? How did you get in here?

WW: I am large, I contain multitudes. I am Walt Whitman. I live here in Washington and work for the Attorney General. I am also a poet.

DJT: You work for Barr? (picks up phone) Get me Barr. Bill, there’s some homeless guy here who says he works for you.

WW: Let me read you a poem about an election.

DJT (hangs up phone): About my election?

WW: It is called Election Day: November 1884

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:)
the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the
heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

DJT: Yeah, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, they’re going to swell my sails! My heart pants, I get it. Napoleon, I like the sound of that. I’m going to tweet about you right now. How do you like Wild Walt?

WW: Another poem:

To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist
much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever
afterward resumes its liberty.

DJT: Resist much, obey little!? (picks up phone again) Get this bum out of here!

WW: I’ll be back. Be best.

There is no sanction for lawyers who talk nonsense. But there is accountability for misleading and lying—especially in front of the Chief Justice.

Oath on Admission to the U.S. Courts

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as an attorney and as a counselor of this court I will conduct myself uprightly and according to law, and that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

I regularly point out that almost two dozen of the lawyers who helped Richard Nixon execute and cover up his abuse of power and illegal schemes ended up being punished personally and professionally—from jail to disbarment to suspension. (See Lessons for Trump Attorneys: The Lawyers of Watergate)

It may seem a fine line between advocating a position and crossing the line into misconduct. But not really. Lawyers are sworn officers of the court, the law and the Constitution, given substantial power. They are commanded, by their oaths and by the rules of professional responsibility, not to mislead the court and not to lie (and obviously not to break the law).

It is the view of many, unspoken for a while but now being whispered, that various attorneys involved in Trump-related matters have put themselves on the wrong side of the professional line. I note with respect that lawyers are expert at walking up to the lines but not crossing them. Yet in high power highly-charged situations, as with Nixon, as with Trump, greater forces sometimes overwhelm even the smartest and most judicious.

We are still in the eye of the storm. After the dust settles, expect to see some of these lawyers brought before their respective bar associations for consideration of their conduct. It happened in Watergate. It will happen again.

A Face in the Crowd: A Media Star Demagogue Takes Himself Down

“Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak.”

“This whole country’s just like my flock of sheep! They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em.”

“Good night you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.”

A Face in the Crowd (1957) is a movie about an unlikely backwoods media star, a drifter named Lonesome Rhodes, who becomes a national populist icon. He believes he can sell his followers on anything, including who the next president should be.

The demagogic scheme falls apart when his real beliefs are broadcast on an open microphone.

***

ACTOR ON RHODES’ SHOW: You really sell that stiff [Senator Fuller] as a man among men?

LONESOME RHODES: Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. Sure, I got ’em like this… You know what the public’s like? A cage of guinea pigs. Good night you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.

***

LONESOME RHODES: This whole country’s just like my flock of sheep!

MARCIA JEFFRIES: Sheep?

LONESOME RHODES: Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers – everybody that’s got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don’t know it yet, but they’re all gonna be ‘Fighters for Fuller’. They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em.

***

Critical times are tough tests for lawyers. Some pass, some fail.

Lawyers are sworn officers of the courts of their respective states and federal jurisdictions. They take a solemn oath. They take that oath because as citizens we give them substantial power as officers of the court. As Spiderman (not a lawyer) reminds us, with great power comes great responsibility.

In normal times it is hard enough for lawyers to balance all the interests surrounding them—professional, personal, political. In abnormal and critical times—like these—lawyers may be pushed to pick a lane. The onerous professional demands, as embodied in the oath, may be in conflict with other interests, including ambition, success and ideology.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned a few examples of times in which lawyers chose poorly. One is the case of attorneys involved in Watergate, almost two dozen of whom ended up being punished and sanctioned.  Another is Hans Frank, a brilliant attorney known as Hitler’s Lawyer.  There are many other infamous examples.

The number of lawyers involved in current events, as principals or as advocates, is growing exponentially. It will only expand as dark matters surrounding the president get deeper and more serious. Please keep this in mind as this drama unfolds.

Here is an example of an oath, one taken by attorneys in the State of Washington:

 

OATH OF ATTORNEY

I do solemnly declare:

I am fully subject to the laws of the State of Washington and the laws of the United States and will abide by the same.

I will support the constitution of the State of Washington and the constitution of the United States.

I will abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct approved by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington.

I will maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.

I will not counsel, or maintain any suit, or proceeding, which shall appear to me to be unjust, or any defense except as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law, unless it is in defense of a person charged with a public offense. I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me only those means consistent with truth and honor. I will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement.

I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client, and will accept no compensation in connection with the business of my client unless this compensation is from or with the knowledge and approval of the client or with the approval of the court.

I will abstain from all offensive personalities, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged.

I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay unjustly the cause of any person.

 

“Shaman walking across Russia to ‘exorcise Putin’ arrested on ‘terrorism’ charges”

“He, Putin, is not human. He’s a beast, a demon.”

For those living under undemocratic regimes—in Russia, the United States, or elsewhere—this may be the most important and interesting story this week that has been missed.

The Independent:

Shaman walking across Russia to ‘exorcise Putin’ arrested on ‘terrorism’ charges

Alexander Gabyshev was attempting to walk 5,000 miles from Siberia to banish ‘demon’ president.

Six months ago, Siberian shaman Alexander Gabyshev experienced a mystical revelation.

He had been chosen to exorcise dark spirits from Russia – as he told anyone willing to listen – dark spirits that were being directed by a demon called Vladimir Putin.

To this end, the shaman set off on foot from far eastern Siberia. He aimed to meet his presidential nemesis in Moscow sometime in 2021. But in the early hours of Thursday, over 1,800 miles into his journey, Mr Gabyshev was stopped, arrested, and reportedly charged with extremism offences.

Authorities were taking no chances, with an elaborate dawn raid to detain the ageing shaman.

According to witnesses, police first cut off the highway on the border between Buryatiya and Irkutsk, the impoverished regions lying on the sides of Lake Baikal. They cut off mobile networks. Then officers surrounded the shaman’s campsite, before pinning him to the ground, leading him to a waiting van, and whisking him away.

For a long time, the idea of a 50-year-old shaman tugging a small trailer towards Moscow was the butt of jokes. Only a fragmented biography about the man was available. It seemed to speak of personal tragedy: a history graduate, Mr Gabyshev turned to mystical religion after the death of his wife in the 2000s.

There seemed little prospect of the one-man protest managing to complete the 5,000-mile journey to the capital.

Yet every day that Mr Gabyshev inched along the federal highway towards his goal, 10 miles at a time, his following grew. A handful even joined him on his crusade.

For some, his unusual protest spoke to a wider general disaffection with Moscow. Locals staged demonstrations in support. And that was when things started to get embarrassing for the Kremlin.

In an interview with the local outlet Znak published before his arrest, Mr Gabyshev said he aimed to create an “army” by the time he reached Moscow.

“God told me to go and banish the demon,” he said. “He, Putin, is not human. He’s a beast, a demon.”

Mr Gabyshev encountered plenty of resistance along the way. Earlier this month, a group of shamans more loyal to the Kremlin tried to impede his entry into Buryatiya. Nearer the regional capital, police also began to take a close interest, arresting two of Mr Gabyshev’s followers.

Ironically, the propaganda video below publicizing this mission is from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded in whole or in part by the American government. There seems to be no recognition that if Putin is viewed as a demon requiring exorcism, there may well be others who view Trump as a demon requiring exorcism. So far, no shamans. A walk from Washington to Palm Beach perhaps?

Fight or flee?

Somewhere in the nightmare of failure that gripped America between 1965 and 1970, the old Berkeley-born notion of beating The System by fighting it gave way to a sort of numb conviction that it made more sense in the long run to Flee, or even to simply hide, than to fight the bastards on anything even vaguely resembling their own terms.

Hunter S. Thompson
Freak Power in the Rockies
Rolling Stone #67, October 1, 1970

For more about Hunter S. Thompson see If Hunter S. Thompson Was Here and Hunter S. Thompson and Political Journalism.

OBEY T-Shirt

OBEY is the extension of artist Shepard Fairey, “Manufacturing Quality Dissent Since 1989”. He is a remarkably productive and effective artist-activist, most famous for his Obama “Hope” poster:

Now OBEY is selling a special OBEY T-Shirt:

It was not offered specifically to coincide with the tragic events of the past few weeks, but is more appropriate than ever. OBEY explains:

We’re overwhelmed by the support and dialogue around our “This Is An OBEY T-Shirt” T-shirt. The timing of the release of the shirt was not intentional to fall in the aftermath of the recent sufferings in our country such as the shootings in El Paso and Dayton or the ICE raids in Mississippi. This shirt was designed months ago and was part of the Fall 2019 collection that is being introduced to the market now. This shirt touches on so many topics that deserve attention in the US and around the world, and we would like to take the opportunity to do some positive while we have everyone’s attention.

OBEY Clothing will be donating its profits from the sale of these items. For those of you familiar with the brand you know about our OBEY Awareness program founded in 2007, designed to do just this sort of thing. All profits for the project will be donated to several 501c3 designated non-profit organizations, helping in the aid of the families of shooting victims as well as defending the rights of those that can’t defend themselves.