Home National Politics Question for Readers Here: Who Is Going to Win This Battle?

Question for Readers Here: Who Is Going to Win This Battle?


In America right now, two forces seem to be moving rapidly toward a collision. One might be called “the force of the rule of law.” The other — arrayed against it– is “the force of Trumpian lawlessness.”

A showdown seems to be coming– as there seems lately seems lately to have been a crescendo, a quickening of the pace with which things are unfolding– and that intensification suggests to me that this showdown is weeks, not months, away.

I’d like to ask: will the law or lawlessness prevail? How do you see the story unfolding?

Here are some of my thoughts to help frame that question.

One issue is whether this conflict will be decided by one side backing down, or by combat. And here’s why I think neither side is going to back down.

A “peaceful” resolution could involve the Trumpites allowing the American system of justice to take things to wherever they legally need to go. Which would mean, for example, complying with a subpoena compelling the President to testify (as other Presidents have had to do). And it means that if Trump were to be impeached and convicted , he would submit to such a judgment (as, for example, Nixon did).

But Trump submitting in any way does not seem likely. His conduct throughout this investigation — all the seekers of justice he has fired or tried to fire, all his improper intrusions into the FBI and the Justice Department attempting to make them instruments of his power (not the independent enforcers of the law they are supposed to be) — suggests that there is no limit to what Trump would do to avoid being brought down by the legal process.

So, I don’t see Trump backing down.

Alternatively, another possible “peaceful” resolution would involve the system of justice backing down. (It seems, for example, that it’s possible that the FBI not standing up more for Andrew McCabe is an illustration of this.) Backing down could mean not issuing a subpoena to compel Trump to testify, or not taking Trump to Court if he refuses to cooperate as the law requires.

But I think we know Mueller well enough to know he’s not going to back down. He has taken this on with full seriousness, and will fulfill his mission as well and as fully as he can. (And, it should be said, for as long as he can, for he cannot control what happens on the other side, where Trump is railing at Sessions, at Comey, at McCabe, at the whole FBI, and where Trump already once gave the order to fire Mueller.)

So if nobody backs down, does it not follow that the two forces are moving toward a collision, each drawing upon all the powers and influences at their disposal?

Will this lawless President manage to kill or at least render harmless the investigation now moving forward under Robert Mueller? Will Trump be able to make Justice and the FBI his “loyal” servants, or at least to make them submit to his will?

Will the other players in this story — the media, the public — play any important, determinative role? Will the election of 2018 be a crucial part of the story?

What do you think? How will this unfold? Which side will win this battle?

(Here’s one way of looking at how high the stakes in this battle are — so high it is frightening to contemplate. When it has played out, which United States will we have: 1) An America where the American system managed to rally to protect itself from a lawless, would be authoritarian in the Oval Office– despite his attempts to take over that system; or 2) an America where lawlessness — even proved — was able to hold onto power, because the lawless President blocked the power of the rule of law?)

  • True Virginian

    Is this article a joke? The pot calling the kettle black?

    • Andy Schmookler

      I’d hate to think that living in an alternative reality is required for being a “True Virginian.”

      • Jim B

        Yeah, the true virginian doesn’t care about a con man actually getting away with a number of crimes and our congress is letting or even helping him.

        • A con man, sexual predator, incompetent buffoon, criminal and probable traitor. #trumpforprison

        • True Virginian

          I don’t want anyone getting away with crimes. What crimes has he committed or are you basing this on conjecture?

          • Kenneth Ferland

            Taking Bribes from foreign and domestic interests and Obstructing justice, these are ongoing crimes for which 45 has not YET been held to account for. You know very well what we mean and it is not conjecture, the events are documented, it is only a question of if these actions will be adjudicated to BE crimes by DOJ and or Congress. Any honest interpretation of the law says they area so we feel no hesitation in calling him a criminal.

      • True Virginian

        Try thinking before reacting.

        • Andy Schmookler

          You seem to be asking sincerely, True Virginian, and not in the spirit of pointless confrontation I’ve experienced from so many right-wing trolls over the past 13 years. So I’ll give what I hope will be a constructive answer.

          1) Your examples reveal what I feel confident is a distorted picture of supposed problems on the liberal side. For one example, that bit about the IRS going after conservative groups was proved to be a falsehood: the groups the IRS went after, a close examination showed, were on both sides of the ideological divide. (The IRS officer the right-wing propagandists attacked in particular, if I recall, turned out to be a Republican.) Another example, pointed out by another commenter here, is that the FBI guy you name –Strzok — actually played a role in the FBI move that almost certainly was important in losing the election for Hillary Clinton.

          2) But even if Strzok was anti-Trump, so what? He has not driven the investigation. He was eliminated from it. And of course in any large group of people, there will be people with varying political views. The FBI is known to be politically conservative overall — every single director the FBI has had (even under Democratic presidents) has been a Republican– and this whole endeavor to paint it as a liberal bastion out to get Trump is ludicrous.

          That paragraph above about Strzok and the FBI is to illustrate a second point: a real lack of proportion in your picture. No doubt some liberal problems can be found– but geez, they are miniscule compared to what we see now. I am betting that you think that Hillary’s email issue is a BIG DEAL. I believe that there’s every reason to think that whole thing was quite minor, not a sign of any huge fault in Hillary, but was blown up by the Republicans — and then by Trump — into something orders of magnitude larger than the proper proportions.

          Never in the history of the nation, so far as I know, have falsehoods been so prevalent and powerful as they have been on the political right in these times. Anyone getting his picture of the world from Fox News, the GOP, and Trump, will know less than nothing, because so much of what he “knows” is false.

          That’s what I meant by an alternate reality.

          • True Virginian

            Thank you Andy, that is unbelievably refreshing not to be attacked by left-wing trolls. I really appreciate it. Although I disagree with some of the things you stated it has provided a different angle for me to consider. I will update my thoughts this evening after work. We need more people in the political realm like you.

          • True Virginian

            Can we start with the pretense that Fox News, the GOP and conservative sources or world views as you say are not necessarily false. Biased clearly but to end with that statement seems a bit authoritarian to say the least. Can we agree that sources can state facts, exclude facts and use commentary opinion as a means to distort facts. CNN, Huffington Post and Blue Virginia are biased news sources and utilize the same tactics. I tend to use the he said, she said, and the truth ideology. Somewhere in between lies the truth. If we can start with this notion I think we can come to some conclusions as to the validity of the argument.

          • Andy Schmookler

            Would I be correct, True Virginian, that when you used the word “pretense” in your first sentence, you meant to say “premise”?

            Assuming that to be the case, I have to say that while I recognize that not EVERYTHING from Fox News and the GOP is false (I’m excluding “conservative sources” because I don’t know what these might be), I think it quite mistaken to make an equivalence between Fox and the GOP, on the one hand, and, say, Huffington Post and Blue Virginia on the other.

            Blue Virginia — and, for example, programs on MSNBC like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell — is “biased” in the sense of its advocating a particular side. In that respect, it is like those sources on the right. But Blue Virginia and those MSNBC programs combine their advocacy with intellectual integrity. (For example, on those occasions when Rachel Maddow discovered that she had made a mistake, she went out of her way to make sure her audience heard a correction from her.)

            That kind of intellectual integrity is virtually wholly lacking with Fox people like Hannity.

            The difference between, say, Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity is like the difference between a lawyer who makes an honest case for his side and a lawyer who suborns perjury. Both are pushing a side. But only one is honest.

            It has been established by various studies that watchers of Fox News have a less accurate picture of events not only than people who get their news from other sources, but even than people who follow NO news sources.

            Back in 2004, after that election, it was found that watchers of Fox News had completely mistaken “knowledge” on several issues absolutely vital to that election. They believed that weapons of mass destruction HAD BEEN FOUND, when they had not. They believed that American troops had been welcomed as liberators, when they had not. (And there was another such important false belief that escapes me now.)

            I would assert that a similar non-parallelism can be found — on the whole — between Democratic and Republican politicians in this era. While politicians are in the business of speaking often more with care than with candor, and while there are some Republicans who have stood up and spoken the truth in these times, on the whole, the Republican Party has become the Party of the Lie.

            his is true to an extent that I — as a lifelong student of American history — find quite astonishing. Meanwhile, the Democrats are, I would judge, at least as honest as has been normal for American politicians. And actually, it seems to me that — perhaps in reaction against the lies of the right — I think it’s possible that the percentage of the Democrats’ statements that are truthful/accurate/honest is higher than the average for politicians in American history.

            The idea of there being some symmetry between liberal voices and those allied with today’s Republican Party is one that I most emphatically reject.

            In 2012, I ran for Congress against Bob Goodlatte. My concern for truthfulness was expressed in my campaign slogan: “Truth. For a change.” I was so offended by all the GOP dishonesty, of which Goodlatte was quite representative.

            Now, in 2018, I have to say to the me who ran in 2012: “When it comes to lying, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

          • Exactly – unlike Fox, we fully (and proudly) disclose that we advocate for progressive ideas and Democratic candidates, as well as AGAINST right-wing ideas and Republican candidates. And again, 100% unlike Fox, we stick to demonstrable, verifiable facts, and if we make a mistake we are perfectly willing to be corrected. Huge difference in every way from Fox et al, which are based heavily on demonstrable lies and b.s. right-wing propaganda.

          • True Virginian

            Can you stay out of this until Andy and I are done discussing this. Playing tag team is annoying. As for Blue Virginia, Its factual basis as you tout is skewed by it representing itself as, “The leading source for political news and analysis about the key
            swing state of Virginia, home of the guy who SHOULD have been VP, Tim
            Kaine!”. You left out the leading left-wing perspective of Virginia politics.

          • True Virginian

            Again, and I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt here, quote, “I think it’s possible that the percentage of the Democrats’ statements
            that are truthful/accurate/honest is higher than the average for
            politicians in American history,” is true. I’m not looking to start an argument or argue about the integrity of individuals or outlets. I’m simply trying to come to a mutual agreement that regardless of the news source, the information presented is either true or false. We can discuss whether it is or is not as it presents itself. Is this acceptable?

          • Andy Schmookler

            Sure. I can certainly agree that the information we get from whatever source is either true or false (or some mixture of the two), and that it’s important for us, as citizens, to sort out what’s what.

            BTW, I have remembered that third falsehood from 2004 — believed by watchers of FOX News as they went to vote in that presidential election– concerning the Iraq war:

            They believed that the world in general applauded the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq. The truth, of course, was quite otherwise.

            That election was so close, that it is fairly safe to say that the voters who cast their ballots on the basis of those false beliefs about that Iraq invasion — which was the central issue of that time– made the difference in that very close election that got W his second term, and defeated John Kerry.

            (That falsehood, plus the campaign of disinformation that “Swiftboated” war hero John Kerry into a coward, and privileged service-avoider George W. Bush into a kind of war hero.)

          • The big difference is that the entire POINT of right-wing media is to spew out falsehoods and to denigrate facts. The POINT of the mainstream media, despite its many flaws, is to report the facts – albeit with far too much false equivalence, sensationalism, etc.

          • True Virginian

            Fair enough. I hope we can center back on our original statements and continue discussing our differences to find out the facts of the original argument. I have a feeling this is going to be a long and enjoyable discussion regardless of the victor. Might I suggest we tackle each issue separately as to not veer off the given topic. Clinton’s email server, IRS scandal, Strzok and Page’s involvement, Eric Holders contempt and possibly Fast and Furious if time permits. I’m going to be in and out this weekend working on a field tractor that has failed so please bear with me.

          • True Virginian

            Andy, I apologize but I’m going to bail on this forum discussion. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it’s becoming non productive. I hope in the future we can engage in further discussion. You have been respectful and I appreciate that.

          • Andy Schmookler

            There remains a difficulty, True Virginian, that I think ought not be papered over. Of course, we can agree with such anodyne statements that “regardless of the news source, the information presented is either true or false. We can discuss whether it is or is not as it presents itself. Is this acceptable?”

            But what’s missing is the crucial thing. Conceding that Ds have been more accurate in their statements, on average, than the Rs makes the issue sound like a small one.

            It is not. It is probably the most dangerous story in the history of the United States — in terms of the survival of the nation as an essential “hope” on earth (Lincoln at Gettysburg — since the nation tearing itself apart over the issue of slavery.

            The problem with right-wing lies is at the heart of an assault on American democracy and its democratic values that has been gaining momentum over the past 25 years.

            During that time, the Republican Party morphed from a normal Party to one that advances brokenness in (by now) virtually every thing it does. It is easily shown that the R Party in THESE times is unlike anything ever seen before in a major American Party. And in all the ways it is unique, it is damaging.

            THe list of injurious things that the Rs have done since the rise of Gingrich, Limbaugh, Fox News, Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, and now Trump — THAT HAVE BEEN UNPRECEDENTED, is very long. From torture and torture memo, to across-the-board obstruction, to refusing to consider anyone a duly elected President would nominate for a seat on the Supreme Court, to a President who assaults the free press, the independent judiciary, the intelligence services, and now law enforcement and the whole idea of the independence of the justice system and the centrality of the rule of law.

            Lies are an indispensable tool of the destructive political force that has taken over the Republican Party, and that depends on the votes of a lot of people who think themselves “conservatives” while also supporting a Party that is the opposite of what it claims.

            Let me put here a series of Tweets from Paul Krugman that I put out here on this website. It captures what might be the Central Lie of the Republicans, which is so big that it clears the path for them to lie about every particular thing that comes along. That Central Lie is that what they stand for is precisely the opposite of what they CLAIM they stand for.

            Krugman’s tweets:

            One key lesson of 2017 was that everything liberals have said about right-wing hypocrisy was true — in fact understated 1/

            The religious right claimed to care about moral values, but is fine with a guy who cheats on his third wife with a porn star; it was never about morality, it was about patriarchal privilege 2/

            The flag-waving super-patriotic right is fine with people who colluded with Russia, and in fact is eager to help in the coverup, because it was never about patriotism, just about power 3/

            The economic right is fine with policies that actively discriminate against clean energy in favor of coal, because it was never about free markets, it was about rewarding special interests 4/

            And of course the law-and-order right is fine with demonizing and trying to destroy the careers of dedicated law enforcement officials if the pursuit of justice happens to threaten Republicans 5/

          • True Virginian

            Thanks Andy. I can’t concede to something I’m not familiar with. You seem like an honest fellow so the only thing I can afford you is the benefit of the doubt at this time. Should I pursue researching the truth o’meter between the Ds and Rs over the years we can revisit the discussion at that time. I have no doubt both sides have their history of falsehoods but I can’t say who’s side of the scale is heavier.

          • You might start with this


            Pants on Fire: Trump 15% vs. Clinton 2%
            FALSE: Trump 32% vs. Clinton 10%
            Mostly False: Trump 22% vs. Clinton 14%

            Combine Mostly False/False/Pants on Fire ratings and you get: Trump 69% vs. Clinton 26%. Not even close.

            As for fully “True,” Trump is at just 4%, while Clinton is at 24%. Add in “Mostly True” and Trump is up to 16%, compared to Clinton at 50%. Again, not even close. In sum, Trump doesn’t tell the truth.

          • True Virginian

            Again, I realize you have a need to to push this left is good right is bad thing but I have stated from the beginning that I am not a Trump fan. I didn’t vote for him or Hillary. I think both of them would have been poor choices for this country. I can’t state enough that I don’t watch FOX and sending me links to a left wing fact checking organization doesn’t do much for me. Rebutting and analyzing this much information would take a lot of time. I’m not sure the relevance to who is the empire and who is the rebellion has to do with the issues at hand. You can’t seem to stay focused. Either the facts presented are true or they are false.

          • “Either the facts presented are true or they are false.”

            Correct, and right-wing propaganda networks like Fox – not to mention right-wing talk radio, which millions listen to every day – are all about presenting falsehoods/lies and spreading them far and wide. There is no equivalent on “the left,” by the way, so let’s not even go there.

          • True Virginian


        • Andy Schmookler

          Oh, and one more thing that I would invite you to consider, True Virginian: you believed what you believed about the IRS, and about the significance of this FBI guy Strzok, because you were told to believe it by people who knew it was not true.

          Some of the Republicans actually believe crazy stuff, but for the most part the Republicans and Fox News know that what they are telling people is bullshit. They lie to get the effects that they want, which is to give them the power to make America what anyone would judge is a more broken place. They know that it is about getting wealth and power, by taking the people’s power (and more than their fair share of the wealth) which requires persuading people that they are doing something else.

          Gingrich and Limbaugh and Rove and McConnell KNOW they are lying. With Trump, it has gone so far that it seems likely that he really doesn’t have any strong sense of “truth” at all, so he lies copiously AND he is really bad at forming accurate pictures of much of anything. He lies, but also often he may believe his lies, believe that his crowd was the biggest ever and that he lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal aliens voting. Believe those things because his narcissism, his caring only about himself, require that they be true.

          No President has ever had so tenuous a relationship with the truth. This is how far the power of the Lie in American politics has grown in our times, that such a liar as Trump clearly was could nonetheless be elected President, and maintain the support of the overwhelming majority of the voters of a major America party.

          A people who used to insist on the image of the President as being HONEST now producing a whole electorate — the Republican electorate — that does not mind having a President who lied — according to a careful tally maintained by one of America’s greatest newspapers — roughly 2000 times in his first year in office.

          How far away from the Republican Party who gave us President Eisenhower, a man whose honesty was so trusted that when he was found to have lied — probably justifiably (in relation to the shooting down of the U-2 plane over the Soviet Union), it was a great shock to the nation.

          Now, that Party continues to rally around Donald Trump, the least honest person I believe I have ever seen in any capacity, let alone in the capacity of the President of the United States. The Republicans have been so taken over by the Lie that they “approve” of the way Trump is performing his job as President, even as he lies to the world about five times a day.

  • True Virginian

    Rule of Law. Hmmm, an overreach of a or several government officials circumventing our governments laws to govern the nation. Like Loretta Lynch knowing the outcome of the Clinton investigation prior to her public statement of accepting the FBI’s conclusion and meeting with Bill Clinton? Or her predecessor being held in contempt of Congress. Or possibly Hillary herself using her famed email server. I might even go so far as to suggest that the IRS targeting conservative groups, losing emails and blaming subordinates might constitute a bit of government officials acting outside of governmental law? Hmmm…

    • You really need to turn off Fox and get out of the far-right “alternate reality” (aka, fantasy) bubble…

  • True Virginian

    Would you like to talk about Mr. Strzok and Miss Page?

    • old_redneck

      Strzok wrote the memo to re-open the Clinton email investigation.

      You remind me of my favorite flake — Catherine Crabill of Lancaster County — tinfoil-hat wearer, detached from reality. Is that you Catherine?

  • True Virginian

    Is this the best Blue Virginia has to offer? Incomplete statements and insults? Peter Strzok helped co-write the first draft of the letter sent to congress informing them the investigation was being re-opened. He didn’t write it. Strzok and Page’s text messages were sufficient evidence of bias to have both of them removed from the Mueller investigation. Given his affair as a married man I wouldn’t put him on a pedestal as a reference to moral character and using a Corey Stewart wannabe long lost cousin such as Catherine Crabill to compare me to seems a bit ludicrous. As for the assumption on Trump. I didn’t vote for him or Hillary although I do support some of his policies. He seems like a game show host to me. BTW Andy Schmookler, my qualification for being a true Virginian is being born here, 50 years old and have family dating back to the Civil War and a ancestral genealogy dating back to some of Virginia’s earliest settlers. How deep are your roots?

  • RobertColgan

    Nice banter here….particularly some honest and respectful explanations by Mr Schmookler whose gentlemanly demeanor is most admirable…….

    Me, I’m less civil anymore when dealing with people who seem to willfully look the other way—-to ignore or not pay attention——– when the country is being pillaged and looted by those who seek to privatize EVERYTHING in order to make a profit for themselves, people who believe, rather than think based on fairly clear evidence, people who cannot seem to connect the dots between things that happened/or things that were said, and the current status, such as True Virginian here.
    I don’t have the same patience I once did because I think those people are contributing to the harmful destruction by their beliefs….and time is growing short to reverse the harm before it gets to the next level.

    I’d ask him simply what he has read or watched OTHER than TV or radio, magazines, books, or websites to have such opinions that he feels the need to come here —— an obviously progressive-promoting site Democrat-based which equally attacks both Republicans and Democrats when they are acting malfeasantly against populist policies—– to troll-like attack the opinions being expressed here as though he is arguing reasonably…?
    ( Although part of me thinks I’d just as soon tell him to take his crap somewhere else, but that wouldn’t really accomplish anything, would it? No.)

    All of us are formed by our exposures to things…..if we were treated humanely and kindly as children we tend as adults to give the same treatment to others. If we were beaten and attacked as children we probably are going to be abusive to others as adults ….and we know this one so well when we see the studies which reveal that of the most abusive men in prisons, the ones who killed or maimed viciously, 99% of them were horribly abused when they were children.

    If we are exposed much to the radio talk show jocktalkers like Limbaugh or Hannity, we tend to have anger—often kneejerk (emotional rather than thought)—- against those who express contrary views to the ones they espouse, and ones which we have absorbed from them and believe as our own views.

    If we read or watch people like Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader or Howard Zinn we tend to have viewpoints more critically thoughtful —less emotionally driven—–of why actions are being done, and question who is profiting, who is being harmed by those actions.

    I remember for years asking farmers in PA where I used to live why they were sure that no till farming was good for the soil, or good for the insects and animals——-when it was clear that it poisoned damn near everything and created lifeless moonscapes until the genetically modified crops came in. They told me the seed companies recommended it, told them it was 100% safe.

    It was safe all right. . . .

    …safe for the seed companies to make a profit selling ONLY their seeds with the genes that allowed them to germinate when everything else was dead or dying.
    But we know that it isn’t safe, that the bees and lots of other insects and animals are paying a dear price for those companies to make their profits, then we found out that the seed companies in cahoots with the chemical companies actually KNEW almost 30 years ago how dangerous those neonicotinoids are even to humans, cancer causing, birth defect inducing…and that with repeated use, year after year, the soil is gradually breaking down. And the ecosystem worsening for its use.
    But the farmers were ONLY getting their information from the seed company reps…….and the extension office boys were getting their information from the seed company reps. So that’s what they thought was true, was best practice, was safe.
    It isn’t, and they are still doing it. Profits, you know.

    I’d tell True Virginia or folks like him to read the book, “Requiem For The American Dream” by Noam Chomsky or watch the movie they made of the book by the same title.
    That might be a starting place for additional thoughts to form. . . .maybe open the eyes a little.