SOTU: President Biden’s Moment With History

Senator Mitt Romney was asked a few hours before President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address if he thought Russian President Putin would undertake a massive military move within Ukraine to upstage the annual event?

The Utah Republican politely stated something that could be inferred to mean it is hard to get into the head of a crazy man who is not making rational or logical decisions. With such questioning by reporters heading into the speech came the clear recognition that this SOTU, when a sovereign nation is being invaded with mounting deaths, would take on a far different tone. In so doing, this speech far more than in previous years, would reflect American values.

From a political perspective that can be a winning framework for President Biden, who is facing headwinds going into the midterm elections. From a historical perspective, it is a necessity at this time for the nation to promote our ideals about democracy.

While some conservative Republicans have had a warm fuzzy feeling regarding the nationalistic moves by Putin for many years, the nation as a whole now watching in almost real-time as missiles explode and the exit of Ukrainian families to bordering lands ramps up, have a different perspective. Though the colors of the flag being rallied around are yellow and blue, Biden is surely hoping the effect will benefit his administration.

His message to the nation reflected both the desire to promote democracy and also to frame a political message for the November elections.

Tonight, we meet as Democrats, Republicans, independents, but most importantly, as Americans with a duty to one another, to America, to American people, to the Constitution. And an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.

Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world. Thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways, that he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would’ve roll over. Instead, he was met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.

We, the United States of America, stand with Ukrainian people. Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson. When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. The cost to America and the world keeps rising.

Jill Biden hugs the Ukrainian ambassador and wears blue in support

There is no missing the fact that over the years the usual laundry list of policy items a president hopes for usually lands in the SOTU. That was certainly the case as Biden barrelled through a litany of programs and plans for the nation. But with the horrific events of the past week in Ukraine making for headlines Biden started out his speech with strong words and a forceful attitude when it came to Putin, and the need to fight Russian aggression relentlessly with economic tools.

Yes, the gravity of the international events is painfully real. Everything from a very jumbled world order, how to deal with an ever-growing number of refugees, a growing threat of cyber attacks from Russia, and the issue that bites the average American the most–gas prices. None of those are easy to address, and without a doubt, most will get worse in the coming weeks and months.

I have watched the SOTU speeches since my years of high school, and other than the impeachment scandal when President Clinton was working to move past that political nightmare, no other president has stood before the nation during a crisis of the kind Biden finds himself. He came to the senate during Leonid Brezhnev’s time but now finds Putin’s lack of control over his emotions and resulting actions creating a supremely challenging crisis.

Biden has not only the responsibility of leadership on his shoulders but also the opportunity for this moment to make the man. Biden is meeting his moment with history, and if history is a guide the public will respond. CBS polling before the speech showed Ukraine was the number one issue Americans wanted to hear Biden address. That topic was ahead of both inflation and COVID.

How and why Ukraine matters to the nation is what Biden excelled at in his national address. Not only energy prices and NATO are at stake, but also the values surrounding democracy.

The battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment. The world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security. This is the real test. It is going to take time. Let’s continue to draw inspiration from the Ukrainian will of the Ukrainian people. To our fellow Ukrainian Americans who forged a deep bond that connects our two nations, we stand with you. We stand with you. Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks but it will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.

Biden spent the first 10 minutes of his 62-minute address to Congress speaking about the unfolding crisis in Europe. History will judge his words, tone, and determination of his resolve as an important part of the reason that Russian moves against Ukraine will not be allowed to stand.

And so it goes.

Presidential Powers Checked, Trump Loses Like Nixon At Supreme Court

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In 2016 Mitt Romney said there may be “a bombshell” in Donald Trump’s tax forms, and that was why they had not been released.  For a top Republican to have made such a statement, during an intense and highly bombastic election, was nothing short of startling.

Romney suggested either the tax forms would show Trump is not nearly as wealthy as he claims or that he had paid such a paltry tax rate that it would show he is what all know him to be.

Or as I term it, a grifter.

The continuing saga of Trump’s taxes, and the weaving and dodging that his lawyers take to make sure no one ever sees them, took a dramatic turn at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in two 7-2 decisions, with Cheif Justice John Roberts writing both rulings, made the goal of prosecutors in New York easier with their efforts to see Trump’s financial records.  It was a loss of stunning proportions for Trump, but a major victory for the foundations of what our civic books taught us about law and justice in our nation.

In the other ruling, the court decided Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information being sought for their investigations.  I wish the power for congressional oversight and our system of checks and balances had been allowed a firmer hand in today’s ruling.

The last time there was a court case of this magnitude, dealing with presidential power of the scope presented regarding these tax forms, was when President Richard Nixon wanted to further obstruct justice by denying access to the famed Watergate tape recordings.  Then, as we witnessed today, the court sided with restrictions on presidential power.  We all can claim a huge win because the decision said Trump had no absolute right to block the release of the papers.

The words from the ruling were precise and carry the gravitas the nation needs at this time when Trump has foisted illiberal democratic actions upon the republic.

In our judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.  “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the president of the United States. Beginning with Jefferson and carrying on through Clinton, presidents have uniformly testified or produced documents in criminal proceedings when called upon by federal courts.”

He added: “(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause.”

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”

Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena for the papers. Litigation over those new objections will last many months or longer, but we have the grifter on the run.  And that is no small thing.

This blog has long contended many of the answers to Trump’s actions on the international stage would be revealed with the tax forms.  The citizens of this nation have to ask why Trump attempts so vigorously to hide his tax returns?   We should put this matter into historical terms.  No other president in the last 50 years has felt that they needed to keep all their tax returns secret.

Just consider the last election cycles, and it is easy to laugh at Republicans who have cheered Trump on over his had behavior at a time when both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton,  along with President Obama released decades of tax returns. Yet Trump has fought in court, appeals to ever-higher levels, in a maddening determination to keep his tax returns secret.

It is no small thing to claim that the rule of law is still the guardrails on our republic.  These are trying times, as we all know too well.  While I would have liked to see an even harder knock on the concept of a unitary executive, I know that court cases are made at the margins many times.  I wish the oversight power of Congress had been provided the foundation it deserved in a nation that is to have three separate and powerfully effective branches.

But having said what I wished had happened does not detract from what was won.  A solid win that limited presidential power and a stunning loss for Trump who has done more to undermine our republic than anyone since Andrew Johnson severely botched reconstruction.

And so it goes.

Boy Scout For Republican Party Finally Shows Up

There has been a most depressing absence over the past two years of statesmanlike words or actions from Republicans regarding the titular head of their part, Donald Trump.  The bombast, chaos, xenophobia,  white nationalism, and disorder on the international stage all have required stern responses from the elected members of the GOP.  What the nation expected to hear never came.  Silence and bowing was all that the nation witnessed.

But now someone has the spine and spunk to speak out.

Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah and the party’s 2012 nominee for president, to be sworn into the U.S. Senate on Thursday, has laid his cards on the table.  His clean cut look and clean cut character are precisely what the Republicans need to have in their ranks at this time.  All those other Republican senators who slobbered and fawned over the self-admitted sexual predator in the Oval Office, and who placed their party over the needs of the nation, or even above the Constitution, have no where to hide.  We know who they are.

And that is why it is so vital that Romney put his values—and the values of the nation when it comes to decency–on the printed page of the Washington Post.  It is high time that someone shoved Trump back into his place.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.

Civil War In GOP Ramps Up Over Romney Senate Bid

This is a continuing story in the ranks of the fractured Republican Party.

Mitt Romney’s comeback on the national stage, through the byway of his probable bid for the Senate in Utah, has prompted a sharp debate among Republicans over whether traditional political figures are still welcome as leaders of a party dominated by President Trump,” the Washington Post reports.

Those arguments have intensified amid the rush of speculation in recent weeks over Romney’s next steps, with the looming presence of the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee on the ballot in this year’s midterm elections seen as a new front in the civil war that has gripped the party.

Many establishment voices, eager for a resurgence in the Trump era, have seized on the prospect of Senator Romney as a clean-cut Republican counterweight to the un­or­tho­dox and chaotic Trump presidency. Trump-aligned conservatives, meanwhile, have recoiled and said the party’s base voters have moved on and would shun the former Massachusetts governor as an elite relic of the sort of conventional politics they rejected by embracing the reality television star-turned-president.

Why It Matters For Senator Hatch To Retire, Mitt Romney To Seek Election

The news keeps coming and sounding the same as reports from earlier this year.

Senator Orrin Hatch has privately told allies in Utah that he is planning to retire at the end of his term next year, and if he does, Mitt Romney intends to run for his seat.    Why this is so important to CP is based on one primary reason.

Establishment Republicans must not allow for any slippage in their ranks at a time when nationalistic and other harmful elements are hijacking their party.

It has been reported for months that Republicans in Utah have been quietly working behind the scenes to convince 83-year-old Hatch, who is the longest-serving Republican Senator in Washington, that it is time to retire.  Threats of a primary challenge at a time when a number of state polls show a majority of voters want him to retire makes an insurgent candidate from the unglued part of the party a real possibility.  Therefore Hatch is going exit on a graceful note.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney.  While I am not a kindred spirit to his political points of view I am well aware he is a reasoned and sensible person.  Given the lack  of morals and principle among too many in the GOP due to President Trump I think it most important that the seat be carried by one with ties to the party establishment.

In addition, I have favored the spine that Romney has been able to locate at times when standing up to Trump.  A voice of that kind in the Senate will be of value to the entire nation.

Must Be A Third Name For Secretary Of State

I have been of the opinion that Mitt Romney would not accept a position of Secretary of State due to the fact there is no way his inner being would allow for that to happen.  Also there is no way he would want to travel the globe and explain Donald Trump’s outlandish ideas to the diplomats in international capitals.

There is also no way that the bombastic, and ever-more absurd personality of Rudy Giuliani could be placed in the position without the world community coming unglued.  America, after all, will still have to lead a most chaotic world.

What we have witnessed over the past two weeks is a most off-putting sight as Giuliani engaged in an unusually public fight to land the job in the next administration.  It has been most unseemly.  Even after this election season the antics of former mayor of New York City is simply embarrassing to watch play out.

While I think Romney would be a fine choice, given what a Trump administration will resemble, there is just no way he will lower himself to such a place.  Therefore deep consideration needs to be given to another name bandied about.

Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee.

The bottom line is there needs to be someone with a face on our foreign policy that has some credibility, a face who has the ability to be taken seriously in times of upheaval.  I fully understand that Trump is in over his head and has no depth on the great complexities in the world.  That is why the Secretary of State position must be filled by someone with gravitas.

What About The Mitt Romney Meeting With Donald Trump?

So much that seemed impossible or totally irrational has come to fruition this year–so take that as a notice when thinking about what the rational side of me has to comment about the upcoming meeting between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney.  But my gut tells me I am correct.

There is certainly a deceiving underhand to the media when Donald Trump puts out the names of a variety of people who are supposedly in play for a cabinet position.  Following the truly concerning selection of Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor it is very important to the world community that a seasoned realist be appointed as Secretary of State.

The controversies and ethical baggage around Flynn are problematic. For starters, there are Flynn’s statements about Islam and Muslims.  “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions,” he tweeted back in February. Critics have argued that Flynn is too cozy to Russia, pointing to a trip to Moscow in which he spent time with Vladimir Putin, as well as a paid speaking engagement with state-run Russia Today. There are questions about his management style, given that he was fired as DIA director.  And then there is last night’s report from Yahoo, which said he began receiving national security briefings last summer while still advising foreign clients

There are many nerves to be calmed not only in this country but in the major capitals of the world.  Bombast and crazy talk is not the way the diplomatic community works so there is great hope riding on the Romney forces to rise to the moment this weekend.

But that is not the way I see events playing out, even though I would welcome Romney taking State.

I firmly think Trump is playing the country with the suggestion that Romney could be asked to be Secretary.  It is nothing but a blatant attempt to use Romney.  Let us not forget there is tremendous disdain for Romney from Trump, and an equal if not stronger amount of the same from Romney towards Trump.  These are not just guys from the same political party who opposed each other, but real enemies who do not in any way share world views.

Romney will play the role of a world leader that he was aiming for when he sought the presidency by visiting Trump.  But he will not stoop to kiss the ring of the racist and out-of-touch Trump.  There is certainly a high-calling within Romney for being a public servant–that is without question even if one differs with his policy goals.  But there is also an honorable side to Romney which would be severely undermined if he were to serve in an administration as strained from facts and morals as Trump’s surely will be.

I sense everyone knows the role they will play this weekend and all that is required now is the doorman to allow entrance to one of the actors who has too much class to do anything other than to show up.

This will leave the world still in a most nervous place.  But that is our fate for the next four years.

Another Reason Chris Christie Was Never Going To Be V.P. Choice

The bombastic nature of Chris Christie was always problematic for the wishes of his presidential hopes.  While he would have been a good counselor in the role of vice-president the baggage he brings with him over Bridge-Gate proved more than Donald Trump wanted to saddle himself.  The shading dealings and background of the governor made Mitt Romney look but reject his name as a nominee in 2012.

Today one of Christie’s closest confidants and the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pleaded guilty to a felony count.  David Samson, who resigned from his Port Authority post amid fallout from the tawdry political  affair had been under investigation for more than two years involving a flight unofficially dubbed the “Chairman’s Flight” that he allegedly requested United Airlines to reinstate from Newark to Columbia, S.C.   Interestingly, the route was convenient to his vacation home.

Both Romney and Trump had good reason to dodge away from Christie.