Hunter Biden was found guilty. Guess what didn’t happen?

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was found guilty of illegally buying a gun while using narcotics. While he stood trial, you may have noticed the quietude outside the federal courthouse and on the information highway.

No demagogic puppets from Capitol Hill showed up to attack the rule of law or slime the judge and jury.

No whining from the defendant about how very unfair and disgraceful everything was, a sham the likes of nothing anyone has ever seen before. No fuming about a courtroom “icebox.”

No Democratic denunciations of the FBI. No Democratic demands that a “weaponized” Justice Department should be defunded. No Democratic warnings that if “they” could come for Hunter, “they” could come for any of us.

No complaints from the president that the entire justice system was being “rigged” against his son. And no nonsensical predictions that businesses will flee Delaware in retaliation.

(Indeed, the president has been busy with presidential tasks – like managing a robust economy that the World Bank says is powering a global recovery; planning for the G7 summit in Italy; touting gun reform at a safety summit in Connecticut; denouncing fascism at D-Day events in France.)

A Delaware jury said Hunter Biden broke the law? Fine. In a case brought by his father’s Department of Justice? So be it.

Hunter himself has refused to play the victim card, simply stating, “I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week…than I am disappointed by the outcome.”

Hunter’s father – the president who wants to set a good example for the nation – released a statement: “I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process.”

As for the MAGAts, they’ve been scrambling for a unified response. Some of the usual suspects, like Steven Miller, are hewing to their paranoia by insisting (get this) that Hunter’s conviction is meant to distract us from the real crimes of the Biden family. But some Republicans with functioning brain cells rightly believe the verdict against the president’s son undercuts the MAGA mantra about how the justice system is (purportedly) weaponized against Trump.

Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor, tells NBC News (with his name on the record! amazing!) that Hunter’s conviction “definitely weakens the (MAGA) argument. To me, the justice system is working.” A Republican strategist who chooses to remain anonymous – to avoid incurring Trump’s wrath, according to NBC News – says that Hunter’s conviction “at a minimum slows the momentum” for Trump’s “weaponization” mantra. “It’s less of a bumper sticker than it was before.”

What’s particularly striking – hilarious, really – is how so many of the same MAGAts who denounced the court system two weeks ago, when Trump was convicted of 34 felonies, are lauding the court system now that Hunter has been convicted. Do these people hear themselves?

Case in point, Fox News’ Jesse Watters. Two weeks ago: “The republic has been wounded.” This week: “It gave me a little confidence in the American legal system.”

Case in point, Laura Ingraham. Two weeks ago: “It’s a banana republic.” This week: Thanks to the courts, the Bidens’ “luck ran out.”

Case in point, Sen. Charles Grassley. This week he opined on Hunter’s conviction: “You gotta rely on what the judges and juries decide…and you got to conclude justice was done. But when asked if that standard applies to the Trump conviction, he said nope. Because “it’s an entirely different situation.”

Guess what, MAGAts. You can’t laud our justice system only when its verdicts please you. Tearing the system asunder whenever it rules against you – damaging the credibility of a bedrock American institution – is, quite frankly, fascistic.

Contrast that with how Democrats treated Hunter’s trial. How refreshing it has been to bask in the sounds of silence.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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MAGA movie pulled, but its lies have already done damage

Fifty years ago, the esteemed social critic Hannah Arendt said totalitarians thrive on lies, that they flood the zone with so much garbage a hefty share of the citizenry either surrenders in exhaustion or takes refuge in ignorance.

“A people that no longer can believe anything…is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge,” she warned. “And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

Keep that in mind as you read on. The tragedy is that even when lies are thoroughly exposed, it’s often far too late to undo the damage they’ve wrought because the lies have already penetrated millions of weak minds.

Denizens of MAGA fantasyland splashed happily in the sewer two years ago when a film entitled 2000 Mules became a smash hit. Narrated by conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza and circulated by the right-wing Salem Media Group, it resonated with the saps who believed that the 2020 election had been “stolen.”

Hailed by convicted criminal Donald Trump as “the greatest and most impactful documentary of our time,” the film claimed, with zero proof, that 2,000 Democrats in five swing states (nicknamed “mules”) had been paid unknown sums by unnamed conspirators to stuff drop boxes with enough fake ballots to tilt the tally to Joe Biden. The convicted criminal loved 2000 Mules so much he hosted a screening at his Florida playground.

Well, perhaps you missed the news the other day – and if so it’s understandable, given the relentless flood of sewage that needs to be sifted. Salem Media has pulled 2000 Mules (and a companion book) from all its platform, and issued an apology to a Georgia man who’d sued Salem and D’Souza for defamation.

So much for “the greatest and most impactful documentary of our time.”

Mark Andrews, an Atlanta area suburbanite, had been purportedly outed in the film by surveillance video that showed him putting five ballots in a drop box, as D’Souza narrated: “What you are seeing is a crime. These are fraudulent votes.” (They were not). Andrews was also shown in the book, with a caption describing his actions as “organized crime.” (They were not.)

In truth, Andrews was dropping off ballots from family members, as permitted by Georgia law.

Here is Salem Media’s mea culpa: “It was never our intent that the publication of the 2000 Mules film and book would harm Mr. Andrews. We apologize for the hurt the inclusion of Mr. Andrews’ imagine in the movie, book, and promotional materials have caused Mr. Andrews and his family.”

(FYI: D’Souza is a confessed felon who pleaded guilty in 2014 to making an illegal campaign donation. Four years later he was pardoned by the convict-in-chief.)

What sucks, of course, is that by the time these liars finally ‘fess up, it’s already too late. Thanks to propaganda outlets like Fox News (which settled a lawsuit by paying $787 million in damages) and fake documentaries like 2000 Mules, 36 percent of Americans now believe, without a shred of factual evidence, that the last presidential election was stolen.

Hell will freeze over before the convicted criminal utters a syllable of regret about the lies told on his behalf. Lawsuit settlements and lawsuit apologies are mere speed bumps for a guy whose only play is to put pedal to the metal. With Trump, there are always fresh lies to replace the lies that have been debunked, like in his interview on Fox News last weekend when he insisted that he’d never called for Hillary Clinton to be locked up (he’s repeatedly captured on video saying that very thing).

Even as old lies like Mules are exposed, can truth keep pace with the new ones and deliver us for tyranny in November? That’s the challenge we face, human nature being what it is.

Jonathan Swift probably said it best in 1710: “The greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.”

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Are Americans so depraved they’ll put a convicted felon in power?

Before we ponder the big unanswerable question – is this country so sick that it’ll put a convicted felon in the White House? – we should expel a brief sigh of satisfaction.

What we witnessed Thursday afternoon was an historic triumph for the rule of law. Twelve everyday citizens did what the gutless Senate Republicans twice refused to do. And, if I may wax patriotic for a moment, I’ll simply note the verdict in the New York trial could never have happened in any of the autocratic nations – Russia, Hungary, Turkey – that the convicted felon reveres.

Thomas Jefferson said it best in 1788: “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

If Judge Juan Merchan doesn’t sentence the felon to jail, I’d suggest community service – like cleaning the latrines at the Port Authority bus depot. That’s the minimal punishment one should mete out to someone who committed crimes to steal a presidential election.

What we don’t know, however, is whether his criminal status will repel a sufficient share of voters and consign him to permanent exile. Serious question: Is convicted felon a fatal stigma in contemporary politics? I can’t believe I even need to ask that – I’m old enough to remember when the “law and order” Republican party would never nominate a criminal. But, hey, anything is possible in this benighted nation, given how he and his MAGA puppets have so thoroughly debased American civic life and warred against fact-based truth.

Some smart observers insist he’s toast. Richard Painter, who served as the ethics lawyer in George W. Bush’s administration, says with confidence: “Americans will not elect a convicted felon to the White House.” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who followed the election-interference trial closely, says “there is a segment of the Trump-doubting but not Trump-hating public that will be turned off by the notion of electing a felon to be president of the United States.”

If the polls are right (big caveat), the felon may indeed have a problem. According to an ABC News survey earlier this month, 20 percent of the felon’s supporters said that, if he were convicted by a jury, they’d either reconsider their fealty or dump him forthwith. An NPR-Marist poll released this week said 17 percent of all voters would be less likely to cast a MAGA ballot if duh leader was a felon. Those numbers, if true, are hefty enough to swing a close election.

But they may also be ephemeral. There’s plenty of time left on the clock for wavering MAGAts to convince themselves that even though he’s a criminal, he’s their criminal – as the relentless MAGA propaganda machine will remind them 24/7. The felon’s puppets on Capitol Hill (Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, J.D. Vance, Tim Scott, Mike Johnson, et al, ad nauseam) are already busy with their anti-American nonsense, hailing the felon as a martyr and tearing down our judicial system. That vile messaging could sway lots of impressionable naifs, especially the low-information types who barely know there was a criminal trial.

That messaging will win unless it’s relentlessly counter-programmed. The Biden campaign and the Democratic party have been handed a golden opportunity, if they’re not too characteristically timid to seize it. Just imagine if Hillary or Obama or Biden had been criminally convicted of 34 charges in the midst of a presidential campaign. Republicans would be pounding away at that every waking moment until election day. The Dems should do no less. This is a street fight for the future of democracy, and Marquess of Queensberry rules will not suffice.

Every Republican candidate up and down the ballot should be confronted daily: “How can you support a convicted felon?” Granted, this isn’t the only issue this year, but it can be tied to all the others. For instance: “The felon committed crimes to steal the 2016 election, then he put three people on the Supreme Court who made it possible to steal women’s bodily autonomy.” For instance: “Joe Biden is rebuilding and repairing our roads and bridges and railways, while the felon who stole the 2016 election wasted four years getting nothing done.” For instance: “Joe Biden has put billions into fighting the horrific effects of climate change, which the felon has dismissed as a ‘hoax.’”

Bottom line: The presence of a convicted criminal on the ballot for president of the United States is itself a malignant affront to everything this country purports to stand for. This historic (and perhaps final) free election will be the ultimate stress test. It will tell us whether we the people are still as decent as we’d like to believe, or as fatally depraved as we may fear.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Are we even remotely surprised ‘Birdbrain’ flew into the MAGA nest?

To best assess Nikki Haley’s decision to kiss Trump’s rear – big surprise, right? – I first need to tell you about Franz Von Papen.

Papen was a prominent conservative German politician who helped pave the way for Adolf Hitler. In 1932, he was thirsting for a share of power and figured that Hitler, as chancellor, would be a useful and controllable tool. When one of Papen’s allies warned that the whole scheme would end badly for everyone, Papen replied: “In two months we’ll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he’ll squeal.”

Papen boasted that he’d soon have Hitler in his “pocket,” and that when Hitler inevitably imploded, surely within months, savvy politicians like him would reap the rewards.

None of that happened. Early in Hitler’s reign, Papen was reduced to a neutered poodle. He wound up indicted in Nuremberg.

Faux rebel Nikki Haley is just like Papen and all the other pols who endorsed Hitler. They knew full well that he was a dangerous demagogue, but they thought they were cleverly positioning themselves for after.

Only one problem: There was no after. There was only national ruination.

We all knew Haley would cave. So what if Trump insulted her husband and called her “birdbrain?” She’s a conventional pol with the principles of a weathervane in a windstorm. For your average gutless Republican, the conventional calculation is to keep pretending that Trump is somewhat normal (even though he’s an adjudicated rapist and fraudster with a potential criminal conviction in the offing), and that kissing his butt will ensure the kisser’s bright political future.

But Haley’s announcement on holiday eve that she’ll vote for Trump this fall was still nauseating, given the fact that she’d spent so many months, in her quixotic campaign, sharing what she called “the hard truths.”

She called Trump “disgusting…awful…unhinged.”

She said, “I think that what happened on January 6 was a terrible day, and I think President Trump will have to answer for it.”

She said, “He’s gotten more unstable and unhinged. He spends more time in courtrooms than he does on the campaign trail…He’s completely distracted, and everything is about him. He’s so obsessed with his own demons from the past. He can’t focus on delivering a future Americans deserve. He’s taking out his anger on others. He’s getting meaner and more offensive by the day.”

But this was my favorite: “Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid.”

She dreads him, too. But suddenly, presto!, she’s too afraid to confront him any longer. Even though he was freshly outed last week, in an unsealed court opinion, for hiding stolen classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago bedroom. Even though he celebrated Memorial Day by denouncing all his courtroom accusers as “Human Scum.” Even though he’s reportedly forging alliances with accused murderers and convicted criminals. Even though he himself could soon be a convicted criminal.

As a result, Haley has sold out the roughly 25 percent of Republican primary voters who’ve cast their ballots for her. My hope is that those voters are sufficiently anti-Trump to abandon him in November, and that Haley was merely the vehicle for their rightful discontent. But we don’t know that.

What we do know is that Haley and the rest of the GOP’s Franz von Papen puppets are abetting the potential destruction of democracy itself. Believe it or not, the Marquis de Sade said it best:

“Those who have no principles are never more dangerous than when they reach the age when they lose all sense of shame.”

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Sam Alito bets his flag flap gets flushed down the memory hole

MAGA troll Sam Alito, having signaled his solidarity with Donald Trump’s insurrectionists by flying (or allowing to have flown) an upside-down American flag at his home, is disgracing the U.S. Supreme Court with his mere presence.

That sentence barely scratches the surface. I need to elaborate. As the southern writer Flannery O’Connor said long ago, “You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.”

The story is that Alito, having openly trumpeted his bias in flagrant violation of every judicial code of ethics, deserves to be impeached. But since that certainly won’t happen – there aren’t enough votes in the Senate, and the chamber’s Democrats are predictably too chicken to highlight the issue – at minimum Alito should recuse himself from the long-awaited “immunity” ruling that could whitewash Trump’s criminal liability in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

That won’t happen, either.

The current high court is a sinkhole of mendacity, and its own ethics code has more holes than a slab of Swiss cheese. For instance: “a justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.”

Alito can skirt that provision with ease. He can simply decide that none of his critics are “unbiased and reasonable.”

Even though a federal recusal law says that “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” Alito can simply decide for himself that his impartiality is being unreasonably questioned.

So Alito is betting the story of his family’s stop-the-steal flag (and a second controversial flag flown at his Jersey Shore vacation home) will simply slide down the Orwellian memory hole, just like so many of MAGA’s fascist-adjacent perfidies. That wouldn’t happen if Senate Democrats raised hell and demanded Alito appear at a hearing to explain himself, but, as we know, Dems don’t do courage (“I don’t think there’s much to be gained with a hearing at this point,” said Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin).

The result: Alito has free rein to make a mockery of the oath he took to “faithfully and impartially discharge” his duties under the Constitution. And we become further benumbed as this once-vibrant democracy sleepwalks toward dystopia.

In just the latest example,  a video on Trump’s social media account said if he’s elected, we will have the “creation of a unified Reich.” That video prompted this reaction from ex-Trump deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, who said, “Trump’s continued use of Nazi rhetoric is un-American and despicable. Yet too many Americans are brushing off the glaring red flags about what could happen if he returns to the White House. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

But we were talking here about Alito.

He went full MAGA last month during the oral argument about Trump’s fake “immunity” case – he worried that a criminal prosecution of Trump might “lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy” – and now he’s poised to vote on the ultimate ruling.

There is one foreseeable ray of hope.

It’s possible that he and Clarence Thomas (the other most detestably compromised justice) will be outflanked. A narrow court majority could rule that Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrectionist conduct does not shield him from criminal prosecution and that the trial currently in limbo can indeed proceed.

Such a ruling wouldn’t remove the stain of Alito’s treasonous flag-waving, but it would arguably salvage the court’s credibility – at least until the next scandal besmirches it.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Trump is okay with states monitoring women’s pregnancies

The criminal defendant’s so-called Restoration agenda is festooned with fascist goodies.

Donald Trump is vowing to fire any U.S. attorney who refuses to prosecute whoever he wants prosecuted, he’d unleash the National Guard wherever and whenever he wants, he’d abolish the U.S. civil service and pack every federal job with MAGAts, he’d pardon the criminals jailed for the Jan. 6 insurrection, and he’s threatening violence again if he loses this fall.

But one particular exchange, in a must-read Time magazine interview from late last month, really caught me eye.

Question: “You think (abortion) should be left to the states. You’ve made that perfectly clear. Are you comfortable if states decide to punish women who access abortions after the procedure is banned?”

Trump: “I don’t have to be comfortable or uncomfortable. The states are going to make that decision.”

Question: “Do you think states should monitor women’s pregnancies so they can know if they’ve gotten an abortion after the ban?”

Trump: “I think they might do that.“

Question: “Prosecuting women for getting abortions after the ban. But are you comfortable with it?

Trump: “It’s irrelevant whether I’m comfortable or not. It’s totally irrelevant, because the states are going to make those decisions.”

Has any other president in memory oppressed women the way Trump has?

Trump put three MAGAts on the Supreme Court, and Roe‘s federal protection of reproductive rights went into the trash. Now he’s washing his hands of the entire issue and declaring that if a red state wants to police women’s private lives, then hey, don’t blame him.

One in three American women of childbearing age live in states where abortion is now essentially banned, but if those states want to monitor women’s pregnancies and craft other draconian measures, Trump won’t care a whit. He’s too busy lying to himself, insisting (contrary to all polling evidence) that most Americans wanted Roe overturned.

In the 2020 election, 44 percent of women cast their ballots for Trump. Worse yet, according to the number-crunchers at the Pew Research Center, a whopping 53 percent of white women voted for Trump.

I’d dearly love to know how many, if any, regret the choice they made and intend to vote more sanely this year.

President Biden’s campaign is banking on mass female outrage, driven by the true belief that Trump and his MAGA cult view women basically as vessels in a 1950s time warp. Maybe Biden will indeed benefit. A recent New York Times-Sienna College national poll showed Biden leading Trump among women by 16 percentage points – 53 to 37 – and that’s encouraging, although one could argue that Trump’s share of women should be smaller, given his vile policies and misogyny.

I see two potential problems with forecasting a pro-Biden surge on abortion:

1. Women voters who live in critical swing states – such as Pennsylvania and Michigan – don’t need to worry about the loss of abortion access, because their blue governments are protecting it. As a result, they may be less likely to prioritize the issue and vote on it. By contrast, abortion will likely be a top-tier voting issue in red Florida, where a virtually total ban went into effect earlier this month. But because the Sunshine State has been strongly trending MAGA for the last eight years, it’s highly questionable whether even a surge of outraged women voters can turn it blue.

2. The racial divide among women is a critical factor. As I mentioned earlier, Trump won white women in 2020 – and in 2016 as well. Broadly speaking, white women have more income and resources than black women, and are thus better positioned to travel to a blue state for an abortion. Bottom line, nationwide: White women may be less likely to prioritize abortion as a top-tier issue despite the destruction Trump has wrought – whereas Black women, broadly speaking, are more vulnerable. But they’ve been voting blue already, favoring Biden over Trump in 2020 by a 95-5 margin.

I hope my skepticism is proven wrong.

Vice President Harris, talking about abortion in Florida earlier this month, identified the obvious flaw in Trump’s post-Roe agenda. Historically, “state’s rights” has been an instrument of oppression, of granting freedom to some while denying it to others. Now it’s happening with abortion.

“This is a fight for freedom, the fundamental freedom to make decisions about one’s own body and not have their government tell them what they’re supposed to do,” Harris said.

Will women voters in sufficient numbers hold Trump accountable? The fact that I even need to pose the question is a symptom of despair.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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The dirty details Trump hid from the voters ahead of the 2016 election

Let’s contrast the candidates.

In Washington this week President Biden delivered a high-minded speech condemning anti-semitism and warning us that the veneer of civilization is thin. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, lowlife Donald Trump stewed while the porn star he screwed dished the dirty details of what transpired while his third wife was home with a newborn.

Under oath, Stormy Daniels told the story that Trump was desperate to hide from the voters on the even of the 2016 election – so desperate that he personally reimbursed his lawyer for hushing her up, faking the election-interference payments as “legal expenses.”

Her tale of woe was all quite cringy: He did his quickie without a condom, he got spanked with a Forbes magazine, he said that Stormy reminded him of his daughter (?!), and Stormy weathered the encounter by, in her words, “staring at the ceiling. I didn’t know how I got there.”

Stormy, we get it. We’ve spent the last eight years staring at the ceiling, wondering how we got here.

I won’t speculate on whether her testimony will help or hurt the prosecution, whether it will sway the jury one way or another, or whether the arguably inflammatory details might help Trump if he were to appeal a criminal conviction.

In my humble opinion, the paper-trail criminal conspiracy – the entire panoply of fakery – seems sufficiently strong, and Stormy’s testimony merely demonstrates why the Duke of Dirtbaggery was so fixated on buying her silence. But, all legal issues aside, here’s the key question:

Are we really so debased and debauched and benumbed as nation that we’d actually stoop to re-hiring someone so abysmally sordid?

I’m old enough to remember a time when cheating on your wife with a porn star who reminds you of your daughter would banish you from polite society and any elective office.

I’m old enough to remember the 1990s, when conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians marketed the mantra “Character Counts” and insisted that President Bill Clinton’s louche acts rendered him unfit to serve. Back then, the leader of the right-wing Family Research Council decreed that “Character counts – in a people, in the institutions of our society, and in our national leadership.” The leader of an allied group, Focus on the Family, denounced Clinton for triggering a “profound moral crisis.” The director of the Christian Coalition said, “We have to be a nation that expects the highest from our public officials.”

But today these people are craven power junkies, having trashed their purported values for blind tribal loyalty. When asked about Trump’s Bible-breaching behavior, they talk about “forgiveness” and “mercy,” and “do-overs” (Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins: “There’s an understanding that we are all fallen”).

Trump’s grassroots dupes liken him to Jesus. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who parades his Christian devotion, is all in. And Republican congressmen are lowering the bar for Trump; witness Mark Molinaro from upstate New York: “If you want somebody with a good character to be president, you need to look back in history on all the dirtbags that we’ve elected president.”

Looking ahead, the big unknown is whether these flaming hypocrites will be outvoted by decent Americans who refuse to abide sleaze.

We were reminded again this week that the criminal defendant is not universally popular within Republican ranks. In the Indiana presidential primary, long-departed Nikki Haley drew 22 percent of the voters – the same anti-Trump sentiment we’ve seen in virtually all party contests this year.

If Trump fails to consolidate his base, he could get an autumn spanking far stronger than Stormy’s.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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The Supreme Court is goose-stepping for Trump in slow motion

Way back when I was a boy, the U.S. Supreme Court was so revered as an institution that my fourth-grade teacher required us to learn the names of all nine members. We kids could never have imagined that there’d come a day when the highest bench in the land would be so widely reviled.

And deservedly so, because no matter what its MAGA-infested majority ultimately concocts for Donald Trump’s bogus “immunity” case, enormous damage has already been done. By slow-walking the criminal defendant’s last-ditch appeal to escape accountability, by bending over backwards to entertain fake “immunity” arguments that are found nowhere in the history, text, or structure of the Constitution, the corrupted court has already postponed the long-planned federal trial – virtually ensuring voters will not know, prior to the balloting, whether Trump is guilty of sabotaging the peaceful transfer of power.

I won’t numb you by highlighting the low moments in last week’s oral argument session, except to point out the majority’s contemptible attempts to held Trump weasel out of his criminal predicament clashed directly with the court’s own long-held principles.

Here’s how the previous supremes ruled in a case back in 1882: “No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it. It is the only supreme power in our system of government, and every man who by accepting office participates in its functions is only the more strongly bound to submit to that supremacy.”

Conservatives, true conservatives, take pride in respecting judicial precedent. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence in case law or in our founding document that a criminally indicted ex-president should be magically shielded, but the current court majority is so radicalized that judicial precedent is consigned to the toilet.

We’re being goose-stepped in slow motion toward home-grown fascism, and if that reality seems hard to fathom, we need only remember the sleazy ways this court came to be.

Of the nine justices currently sitting, five were named by presidents – George W. Bush and Trump – who got the job despite losing the popular vote. If the 5-4 Republican majority in 2000 hadn’t summarily halted the Florida election recount and dragged Bush across the finish line, there may have been no Bush presidency, no John Roberts, and no Sam Alito.

Trump, another popular vote loser, gave us a MAGA trifecta. Neil Gorsuch got his seat only because Senate leader Mitch McConnell refused for a year to let President Obama fill a vacancy. Then came accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh. Then Amy Coney Barrett was sped onto the bench on the eve of the 2020 presidential election, even though McConnell had previously insisted no justice should ever be confirmed on the eve of a presidential election. All three Trump nominees were confirmed by Republican senators who represent only a minority of Americans.

And the sixth member of this gang, Clarence Thomas, is participating in the immunity case despite the fact his wife was a well-documented player in Trump’s fake “Stop the Steal” movement. Thomas, the well-financed pet of right-wing billionaires (as is Alito) will be free to wield his key vote this month (or in June, however long they wish to delay) because the court’s conflict-of-interest rules have more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.

All told, says former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut, these six justices are potentially “creating the conditions to let the man who nearly destroyed the Constitution get off scot-free. All while setting the stage for him to complete the task.”

According to a journalist who interviewed Trump at length earlier this month for a Time cover story, the criminal defendant “would let red states monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute those who violate abortion bans” and at his personal discretion “withhold funds appropriated by Congress.” Trump would also fire a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t carry out an order to prosecute someone and consider pardons for supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

That’s not all. Trump would also “gut the U.S. civil service, deploy the National Guard to American cities as he sees fit, close the White House pandemic-preparedness office, and staff his Administration with acolytes who back his false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.”

The moral of the story: Our highest court is not coming to save us. We’ll have to do that for ourselves.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Despite what Trump’s desperate criminal lawyer says, this is not normal journalism

Todd Blanche, who’s stuck with the hapless task of defending Donald Trump in criminal court, mouthed something in his opening statement that really pissed me off. At first I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly, so I checked the trial transcript and lo and behold there it was, on page 90.

Blanche tried to tell the jurors that the criminal defendant’s deal with the National Enquirer was just normal journalism practice. He contended that when shlock tabloid bigwig David Pecker boosted Trump’s 2016 campaign by burying stories damaging to Trump and concocting blatant lies about Trump’s opponents, that was all journalistic business as usual. In Blanche’s words:

“This sort of thing happens regularly, that newspapers make decisions about what to publish, when to publish, and how to publish.”

I beg to differ with Blanche.

The National Enquirer’s “sort of thing” – paying people off to kill stories, acting as a propaganda organ for one particular candidate in ways that would do Pravda proud, spending corporate money to aid that favored candidate (essentially free advertising) in violation of federal campaign finance laws – is not something that “happens regularly” in American journalism. If ever.

Granted, there are more important developments in play right now. The U.S. Supreme Court conducted oral arguments on Trump’s preposterous claim that he deserves “immunity” for any and all criminal acts, and an Arizona grand jury  indicted top Trump hacks (including Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani) in a MAGA fake-elector scheme to overthrow Joe Biden’s Arizona victory…yet here I am, incensed by Blanche’s smear of the profession I hold dear.

But Blanche was taking a page from the standard MAGA playbook, and it needs to be called out. The entire MAGA shtick is that everyone and everything in every institution is hopelessly corrupt. When the courts indict Trump, it somehow means that the courts are corrupt. When voters reject Trump as they decisively did in 2020, somehow it means that the electoral process is corrupt. Whenever Trump is accused of doing stuff that’s corrupt, it’s somehow spun as no big deal because supposedly “everybody does it” and is therefore corrupt.

And when the National Enquirer is caught red-handed operating as a MAGA mud-slinger – hey, that’s supposedly no big deal either, because that “happens regularly” in mainstream journalism.

Team Trump’s desperate bid to drag us all down to his lowlife level is a smear on everything that’s good about America. Here’s a wild and crazy observation: Our institutions are not all corrupt. Our fellow citizens are not all corrupt. And real journalism is not on a par with the National Enquirer.

Mainstream media outlets do not pay for stories they seek to run, much less pay for stories they might to kill. Mainstream outlets do not spend money to aid candidates in violation of federal law; in a deal with the feds in 2018, the Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, acknowledged “that expenditures by corporations, made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with or at the request of a candidate or campaign, are unlawful.”

During my decades at The Philadelphia Inquirer, we had to hew to strict ethics guidelines. We had to buy our own meals because it was verboten to even let a source pay for us. We couldn’t sign any partisan petition, much less work on the sly for any candidate. And even if we loathed a candidate in our worst moments, we would never have typed up nonsense (with an OK from the editors!) linking Ted Cruz’s dad to the JFK assassination.

The tragedy, of course, is that tens of millions of Americans are primed to think the worst about this country, stoked anew every day by Trump and the lawyers tasked with saving his ass. It is incumbent on those of us who love our democratic institutions despite their flaws to save America seven months hence.

I have every expectation that a free and independent press will do its part.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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Rest in peace: Truth-teller Bob Graham, who defied Iraq war fever

How sad it is that few Americans have heard of Bob Graham, who died Tuesday at 87, because this guy was truly a profile in courage when we needed it most. And how sad it was, at a pivot point in our history, that few of his fellow Senate Democrats heeded his prescient words of warning.

Graham was many things in life – a Florida senator and governor who connected with voters by creating what he called “workdays,” guest-laboring as a bellhop, plumber, tomato picker, citrus packer, and road paver – but most of all he deserves to be remembered for defying the litany of lies ginned up by the George W. Bush regime to justify an invasion of Iraq. If only we had more Grahams today, to cut a swath through our Orwellian disinformation culture.

War fever was rampant in October of 2002 – 9/11 was still raw – and Team Bush was busy smearing anyone who voiced any qualms about kicking butt. Dissent was deemed “unpatriotic.” But Bob Graham had qualms and refused to knuckle under.

The Senate, in a bipartisan capitulation, voted to give Bush the authority to launch his preemptive war against Saddam Hussein despite zero evidence the dictator had any weapons of mass destruction. Most Senate Democrats voted yes, clearly afraid of being tagged as “soft” on national security. The capitulators included virtually every Democrat with presidential ambitions: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Joe Biden.

Graham had presidential ambitions, too. But unlike the others, he told the unvarnished truth. When he sought the 2004 Democratic nomination (he dropped out early because he needed heart surgery), he said stuff on the campaign trail that was very uncool at the time. Such as: “The quagmire in Iraq is a distraction that the Bush administration, and the Bush administration alone, has created. (Bush has) knowingly deceived the American people.”

Only 21 Senate Democrats voted no on that fateful day back in 2002. Graham, chairman of the chamber’s Intelligence Committee, was arguably the most prominent naysayer. He thumbed his nose at the war mob because – unlike most of his Democratic colleagues – he actually did his homework.

Shortly before the big Senate vote, he was “stunned” (his word) to learn the Bush team had never asked the intelligence community to formally assess whether Hussein actually possessed WMDs. How are we supposed to know whether Hussein has such weapons, Graham asked, if there’s no official assessment? Are we supposed to just take Bush and Cheney at their word?

Graham invoked his senatorial authority to order an official assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Three weeks later, the intel community complied. Graham read the 90 classified pages and saw there was no hard evidence that Hussein had WMDs. Indeed, Graham said later, the report featured “vigorous dissents.” He also learned that the intel community had no sources inside Iraq, nobody on the ground who could verify the Bush-Cheney pre-war spin.

But most of his fellow Dems didn’t read the report. Instead they relied on a declassified 25-page version that was released to the public. Magically, none of the dissenting opinions appeared in the sanitized report.

On Oct. 11 the senators voted on whether to give Bush his blank check. But first, they debated. Graham’s words would stand the test of time. He said that invading Iraq, which had no role in 9/11, would detract from the mission to find 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. It is wrong, he said, “to focus our military and intelligence resources on the wrong target.” He quoted Churchill, who once warned that those who surrender to wrong-headed war fever become “the slaves of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” Graham said: “With sadness, I predict we will live to regret this day.”

And so we did. We spent $728 billion on the Iraq war (according to the Defense Department), we logged 4,492 Americans killed in action, we treated 32,292 wounded Americans (health costs not included in that $728 billion), we killed roughly 200,000 Iraqi civilians, and we destabilized that region of the Middle East.

Graham took no pleasure in being right about what he later called “one of the most serious security mistakes in the history of the United States.” The tragedy is that so few of his colleagues had the guts to follow his lead.

He once said, “We need to make a greater investment in human intelligence.” Given the pandemic of stupidity in our current political discourse, that strikes me as sound advice – and a worthy epitaph.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

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