What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 18, 2018

My SEVENTY-NINTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again - the constituent who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

As the Kavanaugh story is still on going (with the new twist of an alleged teenage sexual assault thrown in) I think I'll let that one play out before asking you (again) about it.

I'd like to ask you about Donald Trump's recent twitter comments about Hurricane Maria's victims in Puerto Rico. He tweeted that the numbers were inflated "by the Democrats" to make him look bad - a blatant untruth.

If he knows it's not true and tweets it anyway, he's a simply liar. If he doesn't know it's true (even though it came from a nonpartisan study from researchers at George Washington University) and tweets it anyway, he's simply ignorant - too ignorant to govern.

My question: How many more of these do you have to read for you to stop supporting this president and this administration? The list is getting very long, Senator. The longer you fail to denounce, the more entwined you are in Trump's moral corruption.

Thank you and I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up:

September 16, 2018

Senator Toomey "Responds" With A Letter

Sorry for the delay. Life got in the way.

Last week, I said that I received two letters from Senator Pat Toomey. I dealt with the first one.

Here's the second.

It's dated August 13 and begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian aggression around the world. I appreciate hearing from you.
From the date of the letter, we can assume it's a response to anything before my seventy-fourth letter, dated August 14.

But which one was about "Russian aggression around the world"?

The Seventy-third letter was about the June 16th Trump Tower meeting with the Russians and the Trump Administration's evolving dishonesty in discussing it - so that's probably a no.

The Seventy-second letter I gave Toomey a choice to answer on any one of these three subjects:
  • Michael Cohen
  • The ICE detentions of children
  • Brett Kavanaugh
So that's probably a no, as well.

The Seventy-first was about the Steele Dossier - so that's a no.

And so on.

Let's give the Senator the benefit of the doubt. Reading the letter (and I'll post the full text below) it reads more like a general defense of Toomey's anti-Russia credentials than any sort of specific answer to any of my questions.

So on that count as my questions to him about Russia are completely intertwined with Donald Trump and this letter is almost completely about Toomey's reactions to Russia, it's a fail.

There's one mention of Trump in the letter. In the second full paragraph:
I find it very troubling that President Trump has not more forcefully condemned Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies.
Look familiar? It's the added text to last week's response letter. This part, specifically:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies, especially in regards to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. I have said so publicly and continue to support legislative actions that will decisively push back against Russia.
At this point last week I had to ask: When did Trump ever condemn Putin's hostile actions at all?

Don't you have to condemn something first before someone else can criticize you for not doing it forcefully enough??

So I'll ask it again: is Toomey giving Trump some quiet cover here? Imagine being a FoxNews fed constituent of Pat Toomey's and you get a letter that says this. Without knowing that Trump didn't condemn Putin at all, you'd be safe in assuming the opposite when reading that Senator Toomey criticized him for not condemning forcefully enough.

Very subtle lie here, Senator.

Here's the text:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian aggression around the world. I appreciate hearing from you.

I have long said Russia is no friend of the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin actively seeks to undermine American values institutions and our leadership throughout the world. In addition, American intelligence agencies have confirmed, unequivocally, that Russian actors, almost certainly at the direction of the Russian government and Vladimir Putin, meddled in our 2016 presidential election. I find it very troubling that President Trump has not more forcefully condemned Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies. Regardless I am committed to ensuring that our armed forces, intelligence community and homeland security agencies have the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions, including in pushing back against Russia and protecting the integrity of our elections.

I have also supported strong sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Europe, the Middle East and cyberspace. As a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, I was pleased to support the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) (Public Law 115-44), which codified and strengthened existing sanctions on Russia for its regression in Ukraine. This legislation also authorized news sanctions on Russia for its role in cyberattacks, and placed mandatory sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea for their activities threatening both the security of the United States and global stability.

I was also pleased that on April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department utilized CATTSA and other authorities to issue sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 Russian companies, and 17 Russian government officials. This action came shortly after sanctions were imposed against five Russian entities and 19 individuals for U.S. Election meddling and other cyber-related activity, including an ongoing attack on America's critical infrastructure. In addition, on July 24, 2018, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and I sent a letter to the Treasury Department urging that sanctions be imposed immediately on the 12 indicted Russian military intelligence officers for their involvement in cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Whether it is aggression in Ukraine, meddling in the U.S. Elections, supporting the Iranian and Syrian regimes, flagrant human rights abuses, or any other in a long list of aggressive actions, it is clear that Vladimir Putin is a bad actor and his government should be treated as an international pariah. In December 2012, for example, I supported legislation (public Law 112-208) known as the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which allowed our government to impose sanctions on Russian human rights abuses, More recently, the Senate approved a resolution that I introduced condemning the violence and persecution of gay men in the Russian state of Chechnya (S.Res. 211) on October 30, 2017. Shortly thereafter, the Treasury Department used the Sergei Magnitsky Act to sanction the head of the Chechen republic on December 20, 2017 for his role in the aforementioned abuses. I am also an original cosponsor of bill pending in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, S. 2455, which supports enhanced cybersecurity cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine. I have also stated unequivocally that Russia should be disqualified from rejoining the G& until its malign behavior ends.

Mr. Putin insists that the Russian government has nothing to do with meddling in our elections. In that case he should not object to the Russian hackers who have been indicted by the Department of Justice from being brought to the United states for prosecution. Since Putin's cooperation is unlikely, the United States should impose tough new sanctions on Russia, Our country must not stand by and allow Putin and his cronies to bully the United States, our allies, and our friends across the globe. Congress must remain vigilant against Russia and its aggressive behavior in the future.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.


Very subtle lie.

September 13, 2018

Mike Pintek

I was sad to read, yesterday, about the passing of Mike Pintek. It was cancer complicated by a stroke.

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you'll know that he's been written about more than a few times here.

Our politics rarely overlapped and often clashed. I think I may even have called/emailed in to his show a few times. I can't imagine he was a fan of the blog. But still he was a human being who has passed away and everyone who knew him and loved him are grieving right now.

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

Death is always very sad.


September 11, 2018

My SEVENTY-EIGHTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again - the constituent who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

It now seems as though Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly lied under oath in his confirmation hearings a decade or so ago regarding emails stolen by republican Senate aide Miguel Miranda. As you know, lying under oath is perjury and perjury is a very serious offense (remember, your party impeached a sitting president for it two decades ago).

Quick set of questions this week: Will you be withdrawing your support for Kavanaugh or calling for a formal investigation into his alleged perjury? And if not, why not?

Thank you and I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up:

September 8, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (kinda)

This past week I received (via the US Postal Service) not one but two letters from my Senator, Patrick Toomey.

Both are two pagers and one is dated August 23 and the other August 13.

I'll deal with the former first and the latter letter later - if only to subvert any subtext of a proper chronology and also because I like the conflicting alliterations above.

Ha.

Here's now Senator Toomey opens this letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the Trump Administration. I appreciate hearing from you.
As per usual. And as he says right there in writing that he appreciates hearing from me, I'll continue to exercise my right to communicate with my right-wing conservative elected official.

The opening of his next sentence should ping something in your brain.  Here it is:
Since President Donald Trump's inauguration, I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support of and opposition to the administration. In a state as large and diverse as ours...
Wait, haven't we seen this before?

Recently?

Why yes, yes we have - two months ago in July. I received that first letter in early July but it's dated June 15. It's doppelganger is dated two months and a week later.

Let's see what, if anything, has changed in those two months shall we?

Both letters are identical until the sixth paragraph of each. I'll bold/italicize/colorize the differences in each paragraph.

June 15:
For example, as someone who recognizes that tariffs are harmful taxes on American consumers, I have been critical of many of the President's trade actions. When some officials in the administration threatened to withdrawal unilaterally our country from NAFTA in order to pressure Congress into approving a protectionist NAFTA 2.0, I spoke up publicly in opposition. Unilateral executive withdrawal would amount to the president creating new law, which the President can no more do than he could repeal Obamacare by himself. I have strongly urged my colleagues to employ all legislative means necessary to blog such an action if it occurred.
August 23:
For example, as someone who recognizes that tariffs are harmful taxes on American consumers, I have been critical of many of the President's trade actions. When some officials in the administration threatened to unilaterally withdraw our country from NAFTA in order to pressure Congress into approving a protectionist NAFTA 2.0, I spoke up publicly in opposition. Unilateral executive withdrawal would amount to the president creating new law, which the President can no more do than he could repeal Obamacare by himself. I have strongly urged my colleagues to employ all legislative means necessary to blog such an action if it occurred.
This is not so much a change as it is a grammar correction. Kudos to the Toomey office for correcting a mistake that should not have been made in the first place.

Yea, kudos.

The concluding two paragraphs are exactly the same.

What is different between these to letters is the insertion of this paragraph between the sixth and the penultimate paragraphs:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies, especially in regards to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. I have said so publicly and continue to support legislative actions that will decisively push back against Russia.
On the one hand, kudos to Toomey for speaking out against Trump in any form at all. But I have to ask whether he is, in fact, giving Trump some cover with this "criticism." Take a look at the first sentence:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions... [Emphasis added.]
Wait, wait, wait a goshdernminnut.  When has Trump ever condemned Putin's actions? Doesn't a condemnation have to be in place before someone can complain that it isn't forceful enough?

Jeff Glor of CBS in asked Trump in July:
GLOR: "You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016."

TRUMP: "Yeah and I've said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah."

GLOR: "But you haven't condemned Putin, specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?"

TRUMP: "Well, I would, because he's in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes."
That's as close as we get to anything even resembling a condemnation from Trump, Senator. I am disappointed that you tried to call it one.

But, on the other hand, if you want to telegraph to your supporters that Trump has condemned Russia for meddling (even if he really hasn't) and that you want to add a criticism the condemnation wasn't forceful enough, then I guess that's one way to thread that particular needle.

Even if it's based on the flimsiest of flimsies.

But kudos for trying.

September 5, 2018

My SEVENTY-SEVENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again - the constituent who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

The Kavanaugh hearings started yesterday. The Hill reported that the White House, asserting executive privilege, withheld about 100,000 documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush Administration.

Is this OK with you? I am guessing you're OK with it as you haven't said otherwise. And before you answer, let the question play out with the identities of the political parties switched: If a democratic administration withheld 100,000 documents that the Republicans (on a Judiciary Committee committee controlled by the democrats) wanted to see in order to fully investigate a liberal Supreme Court nominee.

Would that be OK with you? If not, then why is it OK with you now?

Thank you and I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up:

September 1, 2018

Donald Trump WAS Present At Today's McCain Memorial

Despite not being invited and not even being mentioned (as far as I could tell), Donald Trump's presence was definitely noted at today's memorial service for the late Senator John McCain.

While the examples below were surely about Senator McCain, how much of a chance do you think these were also about the unnamed Trump (who was golfing and tweeting and couldn't even manage to simply keep quiet if only out of respect for a memorial service taking place).

Henry Kissinger:
Honor, it is an intangible quality, not obligatory. It has no code. It reflects an inward compulsion, free of self-interest. It fulfills a cause, not a personal ambition. It represents what a society lives far beyond the necessities of the moment. Love makes life possible; honor and nobility. For John, it was a way of life.
And:
But John believed also in a compassionate America, guided by core principles for which American foreign policy must always stand. "With liberty and justice for all" is not an empty sentiment he argued, it is the foundation of our national consciousness. To John, American advantages had universal applicability.
George W Bush:
The strength of a democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America somehow has always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at the time of greatest need. John was born to meet that kind of challenge, to defend and demonstrate the defining ideals of our nation. If we are ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: We are better than this. America is better than this.
Barack Obama:
But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand, the long-standing admiration that I had for him. By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that's understandable—what faster way to distinguish yourself when you're the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny. Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. And for John, that meant answering the highest of callings: serving his country in a time of war.
And:
But he did understand that some principles transcend politics, that some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values. John cared about the institutions of self-government, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law.
And:
John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That's why he was willing to buck his own party at times, occasionally work across the aisle on campaign-finance reform and immigration reform. That's why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate.
And:
John understood, as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline, not on what we look like, what our last names are, it's not based on where our parents or grandparents came from, or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed: that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. It has been mentioned today, and we've seen footage this week John pushing back against supporters who challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful, but I wasn't surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John's instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. And I'm certain that in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign, he saw himself as defending America's character, not just mine. For he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly.
And:
But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values, like rule of law and human rights, and an insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being,
And:
So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

Meghan McCain:
We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served. He was a great fire who burned bright.
And:
The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She's resourceful, and confident and secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she is strong. America does not boast, because she has no need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.
Still doubt? Here's an experiment: take any statement about McCain and add "unlike the current occupant of the White House" and see what I mean. I'll get you started:
  • But John believed also in a compassionate America, guided by core principles for which American foreign policy must always stand. "With liberty and justice for all" is not an empty sentiment he argued, it is the foundation of our national consciousness. To John, American advantages had universal applicability unlike the current occupant of the White House.
  • For he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly unlike the current occupant of the White House.
  • So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that unlike the current occupant of the White House.
Now tell me that they weren't talking about Trump.

We're better than this. America is better than Donald J Trump.