We recently discussed how Democrats seeking the removal of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were called “sexist” for merely seeking change after the disastrous 2016 election. Democratic leaders engineered the primary selection of Hillary Clinton despite polls showing that voters did not want an establishment figure and had deep seated misgivings about Clinton’s honestly and integrity. One of those leaders who has been most criticized over the years has been Nancy Pelosi. However, democratic members overwhelmingly elected Pelosi again as minority leader in what was seen as a slap in the face of those who want to see serious change in the party. Within a couple days of her reelection, Pelosi went on the air to declare that everyone is wrong and people really do not want a new direction. They want the same leadership like her to pursue the very same course that has led to historic losses under her leadership in the House. It was the same dismissive logic applied by the Democratic National Committee and Democratic leadership (including Pelosi) in engineering the nomination of Hillary Clinton, the ultimate establishment figure when polls showed an overriding preference for an outsider and record low favorability numbers for Clinton (particularly on issues of honesty). The question is whether the obvious anger inside and outside the party will galvanize into continued opposition. The establishment seems to be betting on people forgetting about serious reforms or wanting other options than the current duopoly of power held by the Republicans and Democrats. Retaining the very same leadership in both parties may be just what reformers had hoped: a clear signal that any changes in Washington will require the continuation of the popular movement seen in the last election.
On this blog, we have often discussed and lamented how billions are wasted in the government, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, without the slightest accountability of officials or serious reforms. The problem is especially prominent in the military. Now, the Washington Post has acquired an internal study that found $125 billion in waste from bloated staff to needless redundancies. The response of the Defense Department in the Obama Administration was swift and firm . . . it buried the report so neither Congress nor the media would see it. It is good to see that our bureaucrats can still move aggressively when called to action.
In 2010, I (and others) criticized the Democratic leadership (including then Majority Leader Harry Reid and many of the continuing Democratic senators) for their use of the “nuclear option” in curtailing the power of the filibuster. I was equally critical of Republican leaders who previously suggested such a course of action. It was remarkably short-sighted and, like so many moves during this period, impulsive. The Democrats acted with little concern that they might ever be in the minority and need this critical power. They muscled through the Affordable Care Act on a marginal vote that cost various members their seats and passed a highly flawed bill that was plagued by problems of bad drafting and poor planning. Moreover, they secured relatively few confirmations to federal office. Now, however, the bill will come due for the Democrats as they long for the minority rights that they so blithely threw away. The first such cost will likely occur in the waiver that will be given to Gen. James N. Mattis who has not satisfied the requisite seven years to pass since retirement in order to become Secretary of Defense.
Today I have the honor to serving as the keynote speaker for the Federal Bar Association Orlando Chapter’s conference. I will be speaking at noon at the U.S Courthouse on the Supreme Court’s history and current controversies. This will obviously include the long standing vacancy of the seat once held by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Donald Trump is under fire for saying this week that he is not legally bound to avoid conflicts of interest because such ethical standards do not apply to him. Various commentators objected but Trump insisted “The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” Trump is legally correct. There is a public disclosure rule that applies but not a binding conflict of interest law. The federal law exempts not just the President but also the Vice President.
There was an interesting recent interview of President Barack Obama by the German media giant Der Spiegel. In the interview, President Obama insisted that he could not pardon Edward Snowden as a matter of constitutional law. He is manifestly wrong. While the President may not want to pardon someone who deeply embarrassed him and his Administration, he is entirely capable of pardoning Snowden who is widely viewed as a whistleblower.
It appears that that “basket of deplorables” was a bit larger than Hillary Clinton expected. I was up to 4 am at Fox participating in the coverage of the election from New York. This was my fourth such presidential election as part a media team and it was fascinating to watch unfold at the campaign headquarters at Fox. History will judge the decisions of Democrats leaders in this election. As I have previously written, many in the Democratic National Committee and establishment (including allies in the media) did everything they could to engineer the election of Hillary Clinton. While they had an extremely popular candidate in Bernie Sanders as well as Vice President Joe Biden, they insisted on advancing Clinton despite her being deeply disliked and the ultimate symbol of the establishment that the public was rallying against. As the close race indicated, the selection of a Sanders or Biden might have produced a sweep of both the White House and the Senate for the Democrats. We will never know of course but what is clear is that Clinton was the least likely candidate to prevail in this environment. Democratic leaders lost possible control of both the Senate and the White House by forcing voters to vote for someone with record negatives. Voters were clear that they did not want Clinton, but the Democrats assumed that the “lesser of two evils” approach would again prevail. They were wrong. Many people voted for third party candidates and many people on the fence refused to pick the candidate most associated with the establishment and the status quo. I expect that history will judge the work of figures like Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Donna Brazile harshly in the roles that they played and more generally in the failure of Democratic leaders to heed the clear demand from voters for a change in leadership. Hillary Clinton was a talented and historic nominee. However, she was also the very symbol of the establishment and heavily laden with the type of associations that the public was clearly reacting against.