Tuesday, November 26, 2019


The stability of the Executive branch of the United States has served as a hallmark of a functioning democracy since the creation of our constitutional republic 230 years ago.  The wisdom of the framers of our Constitution has not only stood the test of time, it has proved its value in comparisons with the democratic parliamentary systems in Europe and the flawed and less democratic presidential systems in other parts of the world.

 Parliamentary changes of   “government”, i.e. the executive branch,  by the mechanism of   “no confidence” votes or failed coalition governments in legislative bodies have created numerous periods of political instability, multiple divisive national elections and non-functioning governments in advanced democracies such as England, France, Israel and Italy, just to name a few.  Prime Ministers in these nations have fallen to the failure to pass core policy initiatives and to “scandals” both political and personal.  The high bar of the U.S. presidential fixed term and removal of a sitting President only through the purposely difficult impeachment process in the House of Representatives and conviction for the constitutionally mandated standard of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” by a 2/3 majority in the Senate,  has spared the American people the instability and political chaos so common abroad.

The 45 Presidents of the U.S. have included both strong and weak, effective and ineffective, and popular and unpopular individuals, but only two have been impeached i.e. charged, by the House of Representatives, and neither was removed from office by the Senate. President Nixon resigned office before he would certainly been impeached and removed for the “high crime” of accessory to felony burglary and to obstruction of justice in the subsequent investigation.

The current charges and impeachment investigation being conducted by the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has, to date, provided more heat than light and so far has proved insufficient to meet the Constitutional requirement of “treason, bribery or other high crimes or misdemeanors”. 

The Democratic effort is flawed on several levels. 

First, context and credibility:

Democratic politicians and liberal activists went into a state of shock on election night, November 2nd, 2016,, when the blustery, iconoclastic, real estate developer billionaire with no political experience defeated the pre-ordained Democratic, life long political insider and chromosome entitled Hillary Clinton.  That psychological trauma, more commonly described as
“Trump derangement” still infects a large segment of the extreme Left today and has guided their actions since that fateful night three years ago.

Overturning the election results before Trump was inaugurated in January, 2017 was the immediate emotional knee jerk response.

First came an attempt to demand a recount in enough states with close results with the hope of changing the Electoral College count.  This effort failed to meet the legal requirements regarding vote totals and was denied in federal court.

But desperation can be the mother of invention and the next ploy was to convince enough Electors in the various states which Trump won to defy state laws which require them to vote for the candidate who won that states majority.  One elector in Texas was convinced and abandoned law and principle, but the attempt on the national scale failed.

Since then, Democrats, have claimed correctly that impeachment of a President by the House is not a legal/criminal process but a political exercise. However, while ignoring the Constitutional requirements for removal of the President by the Sen, they have fallen back on impeachment as a remedy for their frustration and emotional pain.  Some demanded impeachment of Trump for alleged acts and things he said prior to winning the election  and even before he took the oath of office. 

Faced with the obvious futility of these demands, Democrats found new hope when it became apparent that the Russians had attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 election using social media and hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers as well as Clinton’s e-mails and making their findings public through WikiLeaks.

A Special Prosecutor was named by the Department of Justice and the two and one half year saga of the Mueller investigation into possible “collusion” between Trump, his campaign organization and the Russians stimulated a frenzy of hopes and predictions by the Left that Trump was sure to be politically destroyed.  When the Mueller report was finally released it crashed, not with the sound of an explosion of scandal and malfeasance but with the soft thud of a waste of time and public money, accompanied by the wails of despair and denial by the Democrats.  Mueller found no collusion between Trump, his campaign and the Russians, found that the Russian interference had no effect on the outcome of the election,  and took no position on possible illegal attempts by Trump to obstruct justice in the inquiry.

It is in this context of on going failed attempts to overturn the 2016 presidential election that the current Democratic  “impeachment inquiry” and partisan investigations are taking place.

The ideological/partisan personal hate that is the basis for the continuous effort to overturn the 2016 election can perhaps best be displayed by the re-emergence of former Nixon Administration White House Counsel, John Dean who is exciting the Left wing media with his “expertise” on presidential impeachment.  The 81 yr. old Dean who himself spent four months in prison for obstruction of justice in the Watergate cover up, has since tried to make a living writing books demonizing the Republican Party and its former officials.  He has written that former President George W. Bush should have been impeached, and forgetting his “expertise” on the Constitutional requirements for impeachment and removal of a President from office, he said this about the Trump impeachment “inquiry”.

- "I think this president probably should have been impeached the day he walked in," Dean said on CNN. "He's incompetent. He has a terrible attitude. He doesn't understand government. He is in there trying to build his own brand, and he's taking advantage of the office from day one.”

Fortunately, the low standards for Trump derangement syndrome haven’t replaced the high standards of Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution.


The Democrats are divided on what the most politically advantageous charges against President Trump should be emphasized.  Politicians and pundits on the Left have argued since the “investigations”  barely started that Trump is guilty of:   abuse of power, bribery, illegal campaign donation solicitation, obstruction of justice, and illegal emoluments.  Some simply say “all of the above”.

While the impeachment process is indeed a political exercise and federal officials don’t have to break a law to be impeached (charged by the House), that is just the first stage but the standards for removal from office in the second stage of  “treason, bribery or “other high crimes” and misdemeanors”, are all statutory based crimes as their plain language describes. In fairness, it should be noted that there exists a body of thought that this language can mean more than just crimes, and bills of impeachment by the House for lesser federal officials than the President have included non-criminal charges. Even so, this wider interpretation of the Constitutional language which was applied by the House Judiciary Committee with regards to the Nixon impeachment effort, reflects the need for very serious misconduct by the President.
“The Framers intended that the impeachment language they employed should reflect the “grave misconduct that so injures or abuses our Constitutional institutions and form of government as to justify impeachment.” (Staff Report of Committee on the Judiciary: “Grounds for Presidential Impeachment”: Nixon: 1974)

These standards makes it clear that removal from office, especially of a President, is not allowed because, you don’t like him or your candidate didn’t win, or even if he engages in “troubling” or “inappropriate” but legal behavior. 

Abuse of power:

It is clear from the testimony of diplomatic and national security staff, that Trump tried to pressure the President of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and some claims that the Ukraine, under their previous president, was involved somehow in the Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Trump also wanted the publicly announced investigations to include the possible roles of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden . The pressure was in the form of a delay on Ukrainian President Zelensky’s desire for a “heads of state” meeting with Trump and on the funding of $400 million in military aid.
Internal investigations into a Ukrainian corporation based on possible corruption, which had been previously investigated by the Ukrainian government, would be perfectly legal and proper on the part of the Ukrainian President, with or without Trump’s request or pressure.   Investigations into the Bidens relation to Burisma on whose Board of Directors Joe Biden’s son Hunter had held a seat paying him $60,000 a year since 2014, though  legal, would be  politically sensitive and generally considered “improper” if initiated by the U.S. President’s request  given Joe Biden's potential candidacy in the 2020 U.S. federal election .

 The problem for the Democrats becomes the question: Did Trump's communications with the govt. of Ukraine personally in a phone call on July 24th, 2019, and through his subordinates, primarily his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,  constitute an "abuse of power" because they referenced the Bidens,  as well as the two month delay in the funding of the military aid, and did such an effort constitute a "high crime or misdemeanor"?  Testimony by Lt. Colonel Alexander Vidman, Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council (NSC), who Democrats hoped would provide damaging information against President Trump, said that there had been a National Security Council opinion that Trump’s delay of the funding of the military aid was “legal” and based “on a purely legal point of view.”

Thus the weakness in the argument is obvious.  The legal temporary hold on the military aid was released on Sept. 11, 2019 and he "Heads of State" meeting desired by Zelensky, was held on Sept. 24th at the UN.  No "quid pro quo", “something for something” ever came about because Zelensky never made a public announcement of any investigations into the 2016  U.S. elections or into Burisma and the Bidens. Trump's pressure, which never met the Constitutional requirement of “high crimes or other misdemeanors” anyway, and which he characterized as “a favor” in the phone call, failed.

In addition, and specifically to the point, Ukrainian President Zelensky “has said repeatedly that he never felt extorted in his July 25 phone call with Trump.  Zelensky told journalists on Sept. 25, “nobody pushed me.” During extensive discussions with some 300 journalists in Kiev, Zelensky said on Oct. 10: “There was no pressure or blackmail from the US.”  (New York Post: 11-4-19).


With the weaknesses of the “abuse of power” claim becoming more apparent, House Democrats are talking up a switch to “bribery” which sounds more “criminal” and is less subjective in definition.  But such a charge in reference to the Ukrainian affair requires a redefinition of significant proportions to push the square shape of the charge into the round hole of reality.

The constitutional standard of bribery for impeachment implies an agreement between a President and another person in which, by acceptance of a  personal monetary gift to the President,  he uses his powers to provide a policy or services that personally benefits the other individual, a “quid pro quo” in reverse of the Ukrainian situation.  Zelensky didn't make an initial offer of anything to induce Trump to offer military aid, which simply continued a long term policy of military support by the Obama Administration. Trump didn't agree to a request for military aid by Zelensky in return for something of monetary or any other kind of value. The military aid in question was legislation passed by the Congress as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.  Zelensky didn’t try and “bribe”Trump with anything and on the flip side of the coin, Trump didn't try and "bribe" Zelensky. The aid was a congressional appropriation which preceded the Trump-Zelensky phone call and was going to go out at some time and it did. Trump did try to pressure Zelensky, which most people agree was "improper" given the “possible” domestic election connection to a “possible” Joe Biden candidacy.

Essentially, the big picture in which the impeachment process resides, explains the true nature of the exercise.  It is just the latest attempt in a three year effort to overturn the 2016 election. All the previous attempts failed.  This one will also fail also since it doesn’t have the support of a large majority of the American public, or even based on one recent poll, any majority.

No impeachment effort in the House of Representatives should ever be undertaken without highly serious, provable offenses to support it; a bipartisan consensus to commence the procedure (not a single Republican member of the House voted to proceed with the “impeachment inquiry”); broad based public support for the effort and a high probability that the Senate will find the charges sufficient to take the drastic step of removing the President. 

This exclusively  Democrat led process, fails to meet any of these important standards and the Democratic leadership knows this.  So the only possible explanation for their motivation is to attempt to further discredit the President in an effort to win the 2020 presidential election.
The Democratic majority has simply usurped the responsibilities and legislative functions of the House to carry out a partisan election “dirty trick”.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


While the attention of the nation is being focused by the media on the early stages of the crowded Democratic presidential primary campaign, important events in the international arena are happening.  These events could give the many Democratic candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, or at least informed awareness, of international relations. But for the most part the candidates are still caught up in a competition of slogans, Left wing “grand” promises, and condemnation of President Trump, all of which  avoid hard questions and detailed answers.

One important event that impacts U.S. interests and has an domestic political consequences as well, was the recent parliamentary election in Israel.  The regional implications of the election are enormous.  The complex Israeli/Palestinian conflict which has been a source of international tension and war since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 remains unsettled and in apparent stalemate despite changes over the years in the political leadership of both Israel and the Palestinians and their supporters. 

The  history of the conflict shows a spectrum of political and military support by American presidential administrations but  the political significance of the recent election in Israel and the 2016 election of Donald Trump has potentially redefined the relationship between the two nations.

The Israeli election was won by a prospective coalition of conservative, nationalist and religious  political parties.  The largest of these was the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu who has been the incumbent Prime Minister for three previous, though not consecutive terms of office.
It was a very close election, a virtually unavoidable condition based on the structure of the Israeli government and political process.  

Israel has a parliamentary system which means that voters don’t  vote directly for the head of government.  They vote for lists of candidates submitted by political parties which will determine the make-up of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.  Membership is determined by proportional representation based on each party’s percentage of the voter’s preferences in the total vote. The head of the largest party based on the new make-up of the legislature is usually chosen by the President of Israel, a mostly symbolic office, to “form a government”.  That means  picking  cabinet secretaries  from among a coalition parties to create an executive branch.  The problem in Israel is that the political spectrum is fractured into a great number of political parties, sometimes as many as 40.  Parties much achieve at least 3.25% of the total vote to gain seats in the Knesset which has only 120 members. Achieving an absolute majority by any single party has been impossible for the entire history of the nation.  In a close contest, several coalition partners may be necessary  and often results in a “strange bedfellows”, and sometimes contentious executive branch, as cabinet seats are doled out to minor parties with their own political agendas.

This was the result in the recent election.  The Likud Party won only 30% of the vote and 36 seats in the Knesset,  narrowly  beating their major rival, the new Blue and White Party which won 29.2%. and 35 seats.  This requires Netanyahu to create a majority of 61 seats from among the conservative portion of the remaining 49 seats won by smaller parties.  This he appears to have done by prior agreement, creating a ten seat majority in the Knesset with several conservative and religious parties.  

The U.S. political connection with this recent event represents both a long term relationship of support and a new environment with potentially serious problems.

President Trump has been “Israeli friendly” since taking office in January, 2017.  This has been a notable contrast with the tensions between the two nations during the Obama Administration. Still,  Trump’s orientation has reflected the generally tolerant to supportive alignment of the U.S. since the post WWII international discussions relating to the creation of the state of Israel. 

 On November 29th, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution affirming the recommendations of it’s Special Committee on Palestine (SCOP) which devised a partition of the former League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine.   The partition divided the territory between a new Jewish Provisional Government of Israel and a proposed Arab state.
On May 14, 1948 the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed itself a new independent state and President Truman personally recognized the new government as the legal governing authority of the new state of Israel.  The next day a coalition of regional arab states attacked Israel and the First Arab-Israeli War began. Although the Truman administration provided little material support, Israel successfully repelled the Arab forces and UN sponsored cease fire agreements were negotiated.

However, Israel’s relationship with the U.S. has not always overcome all policy disagreements, as in the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Second Arab-Israeli War.  The conflict began when Israeli, French and British troops attempted to take control of the Suez Canal after Egyptian President Gamal  Abdel Nasser nationalized it. President Eisenhower facing threats by the Soviet Union to intervene, ordered the French, British and Israel forces to withdraw or face economic sanctions, which they did. 

Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in cooperation with the British, sought to avoid a military arms race in the region and withheld arms sales to Israel after the Suez conflict.  But Soviet arms transfers to Egypt and Syria upset the balance and President Johnson changed U.S. policy in support of Israel with significant armor and aircraft sales.  

Arab nationalism led by Egypt’s Nasser, and a series of terrorist attacks on Israel from Jordan connected to the issue of the partition of  Palestine, complicated the Cold War issues and resulted in the 1967 “Six Day War” between Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. This was the Third Arab/Israeli War and resulted in a complete Israeli victory including a large expansion of territory in the Egyptian controlled Sinai Peninsula; the mountainous Syrian border with Israel called the Golan heights, and the West Bank territories and Eastern portion of the  city of Jerusalem controlled by Jordan.

After, the Six Day War, the U.S. under President Nixon tried once again to achieve a more permanent settlement of hostilities by supporting UN Resolution 242 that required Israel and its Arab neighbors to conclude peace treaties in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory.  These attempts failed as the parties could not come to an agreement. 

In 1970, after the death of Egypt’s Nasser,  Anwar el-Sadat  became the President.  Hoping to regain control of the territory lost to Israel in 1967 and persuade Israel that the never ending conflict with Egypt was not in Israel’s national interests,  he made a new compact with Syria and plotted a surprise attack on the formerly Egyptian territory of the Sinai.  It began on October 6, 1973 while Syrian forces attempted to retake the Golan Heights.  Thus began The Fourth Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War because October 6, was the similarly  named Jewish holy day.  
The surprise was successful and the combined Arab forces armed with up to date Soviet weapons, made early advances.  The Nixon Administration provided massive amounts of military equipment to Israel and the Israeli armed forces managed a successful counter attack. Th conflict soon turned into another military disaster for the Arab forces including the successful encirclement of Egypt’s Third Army just East of the Suez Canal.   However, the war, and Israel’s military domination set the stage for a series of peace negotiations between the Egypt and Israel.

In 1974, the first of two Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreements providing for the return of portions of the Sinai to Egypt were signed.    In 1978 Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met in the U.S. at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, in what was to be an historic event.  After tough negotiations, a framework for a future peace agreement was reached and in March, 1979 a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed.  

In general terms, the policy of all U.S. administrations after the creation of the Jewish state, has been to create stability in the region, seek balance in terms of military capabilities, and encourage a permanent peace through negotiations.  An underlying approach was to minimize regional influence by the Soviet Union and to assist Israel at times when they faced the possibility of military defeat at the hands of the Arab states.  The Camp David Accords and the following Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty changed the character of the conflict by removing Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab state, from future region- wide Arab/Israeli wars. 

Despite the significance of the Israeli/Egypt peace treaty and a subsequent peace treaty with Jordan, the peace has not come to the area.  The creation of an Arab (Palestinian) state as provided by the UN partition proposal and which was rejected immediately by the Arab states, has never been accomplished.  Armed conflict, limited and wide, between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization created in 1964  and led by Yassir Arafat from 1969 until his death in 2004, wars with Hamas, the terrorist and political organization in control of the Gaza Strip, the “Arab Spring” revolts which failed in Egypt and is still ongoing in Syria, cross border terrorist attacks from Gaza and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, all have produced constant conflict since the end of the 1973 war.

From the beginning, in 1948, all U.S. presidents have also supported the original concept of UN Resolution 181 which called for the partition of the Palestinian Mandate into a Jewish and an Arab state as the only effective way to end the now 71 year old conflict.  Now commonly just called the “Two State Solution”, it remains as complicated as always.  

While the Cold War has ended, new entities have entered the environment.  Iran, has declared itself a permanent and implacable foe of the state of Israel, even calling for it’s annihilation.  Iranian and Russian forces have entered the civil war in Syria and along with Iran’s proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah located in Lebanon and now also fighting in Syria.  Hamas, in Gaza also refuses Israel’s “right to exist” and is in a permanent state of hostilities with Israel which has occasioned several major conflicts with the Israeli Defense Forces.  The Palestinian Authority, which was created by the Oslo Accords in 1993, is in administrative control of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, thus creating a divided Palestinian government.  

 U.S. relations with Israel have always been considered in the larger Middle East regional context with most regional consideration going to the primary players, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.  However, Iran’s growing influence and development of a nuclear research program with possible military applications created a new source of instability and ramifications to the long term  Arab/Israeli conundrum.

Iran has been the target of economic sanctions since 1979 when Iranian militants occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took the diplomatic staff hostage.  The hostage crisis ended on January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President of the United States.

However, in  the ensuing years the U.S., the EU and the UN Security Council added additional, and broader economic sanctions against Iran in connection with their support of international terrorism and their nuclear development program.  On July 14, 2015, after months of negotiations, the “ P5+1" nations (UNSC permanent members plus Germany) signed an agreement with Iran called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which began a process of reducing the sanctions on Iran contingent on Iran adopting limits on its nuclear fuel processing production and nuclear weapons technology.  The plan came into effect on October 18th of that year.

The plan had been a special project of President Obama who had been seen during his first term  by the Israeli government as a committed friend and ally. “Obama put an end to the linking of loan guarantees to Israel’s spending on settlement construction and increased defense assistance to Israel to the unprecedented level of $38 billion over 10 years, making permanent hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Israel’s anti-missile programs. He authorized assistance to Iron Dome, the short-range anti-missile system that has proven critical in Israel’s three wars since 2009 with Hamas on its border with the Gaza Strip. ," (TJP 7/28/18).

However, Obama as a candidate for President had expressed a level of disdain for Likud, the Israel’s largest conservative party whose leader at the time was Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama, like the last several American Presidents had hoped to be the arbiter of the evasive solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Netanyahu and Likud represented a hard line, security oriented approach which seemed to Obama as inflexible and an obstacle to productive negotiations.  The problem became more real by the fact that shortly after Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Likud led a conservative coalition to victory in the Israeli Knesset elections of the same year and Netanyahu once again became Prime Minister.  

In 2011, in a speech outlining his approach to Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations Obama included the controversial requirement that Israel withdraw to it’s pre-1967 borders as stipulated in UN Resolution 242 but which had been rejected for years by the establishment of numerous Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He later ordered his UN Ambassador not to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli policy of creating the settlements; a departure from all previous U.S. president’s policies of defending Israel when each of many anti-Israel UN Resolutions were submitted for votes in the Security Council.

The Iran nuclear deal, JCPA, approved in 2015 was the breaking point between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu’s government.  Netanyahu was adamantly opposed to the deal and came to the U.S. to appeal to Republicans in the Congress to kill the deal.  He complained that; “. . .A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief,”.  He made the point  to Obama and the rest of the P5+1, that the JCPA was a temporary diplomatic achievement but to Israel it was a threat to their very existence.

The U.S. presidential election of 2016 has fundamentally changed the U.S./Israeli relationship and Netanyahu’s victory in 2019 cements that relationship at least until the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The French Ambassador to the U.S. who is also the former Ambassador to Israel, recently said that Trump was more popular in Israel than Netanyahu.  If that is so, it can be partially explained by the tenuous Netanyahu/Obama relationship which featured open disdain on both sides.  Trump has supported Israel both diplomatically and materially. 

On December 6, 2017 Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced his plans to move the U.S. embassy there. Although Israel’s important government offices were located there, they are in the western half of the city. The Palestinian position was that East Jerusalem was to be the capital of the future Palestinian state.  Also , though Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama had all said they would move the embassy, all had deferred to what was the pro forma U.S. and EU position of keeping all territorial issues in the conflict on the table to help stimulate negotiations between the parties. Thus Trump’s recognition of the entire city which had been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 War, as Israel’s capital, was a major blow to the Palestinian view of a “two state solution”.

On May 8, 2018, fulfilling a campaign promise, Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (PCPOA), the “Iran Nuclear Deal”.  Calling the agreement deeply flawed and dangerous, he reimposed U.S. economic sanctions and handed Prime Minister Netanyahu a major diplomatic and political gift.  The effect was to destroy Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement and reimpose significant economic pressure on the government of Iran.

Trump wasn’t finished in his rebuilding of the U.S. relationship with Netanyahu.  On May 25, 2019, he surprised his own State Department and U.S. allies in Europe by announcing that the U.S. government now recognized Israel’s claims to the Golan Heights region on the border with Syria.  This territorial, under Israeli occupation since 1967 had also been viewed by the EU leadership and Syria as a negotiable component of a broader Arab/Palestinian/ Israeli peace plan.
Of course Trump was simply rejecting diplomatic maneuvering and recognizing the reality that no Israeli government was going to relinquish control of the strategically important defensive region which had gained greater importance since the Iranian entry into the Syrian civil war.

It is believed by some political observers in Israel that Trump’s pro-Israeli acts and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Golan helped Netanyahu build his conservative coalition to win the parliamentary elections in April, 2019.

During the campaign and encouraged by Trump’s support,  Netanyahu stunned the international community by saying if elected Prime Minister he would assume sovereignty over the @131 (in 2017) Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This promise,  if accomplished, in combination with Trump’s recognition of all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel  would effectively end the seventy-one year old prospect of a “two state solution” to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Of course, Netanyahu may delay, modify, or even reject such a plan in the face of what will be certain international pressure.  And, Netanyahu will not always be the Prime Minister and head of a governing conservative coalition. Future Prime Ministers could have a very different approach.  Still, there are an estimated 413,400 Israelis living in the 131 modern villages (settlements) and “outposts” in the West Bank.  An additional 209,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem, presenting an enormous obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state in these areas.

Prior to Netanyahu’s “sovereignty” announcement, a Trump “peace plan” had been in negotiation for about two years, led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.  After Netanyahu’s announcement, Kushner announced that the plan which was to be revealed in April, would now be delayed until sometime in June, apparently signaling that adjustments would have to be made to accommodate what appears to be an intractable blockade into any proposed “two state solution”.

Now,  in the beginning of the Democratic presidential primary campaign with an ever growing crowd of candidates competing for headlines by attacking Trump, all his policies, and everyone connected to him, including the Prime Minister of Israel, the Israeli/American relationship is at risk of becoming a domestic political football.  

Former House Representative Robert (Beto) O’Rourke who the media declared a viable Democratic candidate after losing his campaign for the Senate from Texas in the 2018 mid-term elections provides an unfortunate example.  In a highly contradictory campaign speech in April,  he declared that :

 “The US-Israeli relationship is among the most important "on the planet" .That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister (Netanyahu) who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power," 

O'Rourke continued, saying he did not believe Netanyahu "represents the true will of the Israeli people" or the "best interests" of the relationship between the US and Israel. “Beto” went on to endorse a two-state solution to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Thus “Beto”, believes that the all important U.S. relationship with Israel must “transcend partisanship in the United States.”? The partisan divide in support of the state of Israel is obvious and is being led by members of  Beto’s Democratic Party.  The “first” two Muslim female members of the House of Representatives were elected in the 2018 mid-term elections.  Somali born Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has made attacks on Jewish organizations and Israel the most prominent part of her new status as a member of Congress.  In May she claimed the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) was “funding Republican support for Israel”causing a major controversy . In spite of the fact that AIPAC offers no financial support for political parties, she went on to say she was “simply criticizing Israel.” She went on to “clarify” that she was opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and “the occupation” (of the West Bank).

 “Palestinian-American”, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) a highly partisan, vociferously crude,  anti- Trump newcomer,  supports Omar and since being elected says she rejects a “two state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and now supports a “one state solution” and canceling U.S. aid to Israel.  A “one state solution” is essentially the incorporation of millions of Palestinian Arabs into the state of Israel and the elimination of the Jewish state. 

 Both Tlaib and Omar support the Left wing Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement popular among U.S. college students and faculties.  One of the goals of the international BDS movement is the “right of return” for all Palestinians and their descendants who lived in the territory of what is now the state of Israel prior to its UN recognized independence in 1948, a similar tactic to a “one state solution”. “Transcending partisanship” in the U.S. doesn’t seem to be a possibility.

“Beto” also believes that the U.S. relationship must “transcend a Prime Minister (Netanyahu) who is racist”.  Transcend (ignore?) the head of government of “one of the most important relationships on the planet”?  Does O’Rourke really believe that should he actually become the President, dismissing that head of government of Israel by calling him a “racist” will lead to an improved or even viable “relationship”?
Unsurprisingly, self described “socialist” candidate Bernie Sanders, hater of all things conservative, foreign and domestic, agrees: “ Israel is currently run by a “right-wing, racist government”, Bernie says, thus establishing his own “relationship” with the vitally important state of Israel.
“ Beto” shows his lack of understanding of the highly complex nature and history of the challenges facing the Israeli state when he simplifies the conflict to a simple choice of a “two state solution”’ That goal has been negotiated since the original Partition Plan of the UN’s Special Committee on Palestine and was rejected by the Arab states resulting in the First Arab/Israeli war.  Bernie knows better but just doesn’t care.

Similar “solutions” have been rejected by the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leader Yassir Arafat and currently by Hamas, the political leadership in Gaza, which still calls for the eradication of Israel.

“Beto” concluded his simplistic and uninformed comments with the assertion that he does “not believe that  Netanyahu "represents the true will of the Israeli people . ..”  This is a very difficult claim to justify given that Netanyahu has just been elected in a democratic process for his fourth term as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is a realist who for his whole political career has been faced with the problem of armed aggression by larger, regional states in three general wars, numerous limited wars against the PLO and Hamas, three violent general uprisings (Intifadas) by the Palestinians, decades of cross border terrorism, and rocket attacks and threats by Hamas and now Iran, to destroy his nation.  He, and all other heads of the Israeli government have had to defend a tiny country, of only 8,355 square miles, only 9.3 miles wide at its most narrow point between the West Bank, the proposed site of a Palestinian State, and the Mediterranean Sea.  Netanyahu sees such a state as an inherently hostile threat to Israel’s existence. His positions are not about race but about security. 

As the history of the conflict shows, there are no easy answers.  The domestic partisan hatred of Trump has extended  to his foreign policies and the foreign beneficiaries of those policies.  
Israel is America’s only ally in the volatile and important Middle East region.  It is also the only democratic nation in the region, and possessed of one of the most efficient militaries and intelligence services in the world.  

Former four star general and Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration, Alexander Haig once said that: “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.”

If any of the prospective Democratic U.S. Presidents want to have a productive relationship with the dominant player in the conflict, they must avoid the presumption of telling Israelis that they know what is best for them for the protection of their very existence as a nation.  

Putting pressure on Israel to “negotiate” is pointless without a first fundamental change.  There can be no negotiation for peace as long as the Palestinians are governed by two separate and opposing governments in the West Bank and in Gaza and while one such government, Hamas, refuses the “right of Israel to exist”.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


It’s begun.  The Democratic Party is having a party.  It’s a theme party called the Democratic Presidential Primary Campaign and self invitees are all coming as “candidates for POTUS”.  It’s also a progressive party (in both common usages of the word), with the formal festivities starting in June, 2019 with a  fun debate between the party goers.  Then those who choose to keep on dancing will move to eleven similar events over a monthly schedule.  Prizes in the form of “who won” and who is still “viable”will be awarded by pollsters and the media eager to influence the outcomes.  Participation trophies, although probably the motive of some, won’t be handed out.

Currently, the number of celebrants appears to be somewhere around 40-45, an unrealistic and unmanageable group but a number that is sure to sink as the reality of the cost of participation takes hold.  

Why such an unprecedented large number of contestants?  Several reasons new to presidential politics are in play.

First, and most important is the remarkable upset 2016 victory by the current  incumbent of the other party.   The guiding belief among the crowd trying to push their way into White House is that “if an obnoxious, erratic, billionaire real estate developer with no political background or experience can be elected President, then anyone can.”

Second is the belief, the product of a two year drumbeat of mainstream and social media angst, hate and derision, that this President is a political disaster who anyone can defeat.  

Third is the effect of social media on the money problem. In 2016, Bernie Sanders had relative success raising large sums of money in the form of small donations from large numbers of individuals using social media as the point of contact.  This has fostered the belief that a viable campaign can be financed without the traditional support of large donors or self funding by rich candidates.  Of course Bernie was out resourced and defeated by Hillary who employed no such restraints on fund raising, but no matter, the dream lives on. 

Taking a short look at the “interested” candidates shows a common thread among the long list of physically and regionally diverse individuals.  With few exceptions, the possible candidates are, or have been pushed, far to the Left. But there is considerable variation in the traditional characteristics and qualifications of the pre-Trump candidacy.

Because the Democratic (and Republican) primaries are state based, unlike national primaries in some countries, the appeal of candidates can vary greatly based on local cultural and ideological characteristics and thus not closely reflect national preferences.  This is important because the larger, most populace states send larger numbers of delegates to the nominating conventions. 

In the Democrats case, most of the larger population states are the bastions of the most Left wing elements of the Party: California (San Francisco, LA); New York (NYC); Illinois (Chicago).
Texas and Florida may be more moderate as a whole but this is still just the Democrats in action and “Beto mania” in Texas is a bad sign in the search for moderation.  Thus a far Left candidate out of touch with the more moderate national population might create a problem for the Democrats in the general election.  George McGovern and Michael Dukakis come to mind.

How will Democrat primary voters sort out this proliferation of almost like minded liberals?
First, things have changed since 2016.  The Democrats have divided themselves into competing identity groups, so for now, the traditional (pre-Trump) evaluations of candidates mostly based on qualifications like political experience and previous success, have taken a back seat to things like, age, sex, race, and level of hostility towards Trump and Republicans.

One less narrow characteristic is still acknowledged by experienced pundits however and thus seems to have survived in the background.  This is “likeability”.  Maybe this will be the great separator in the final determination. It’s impossible to know much about the personalities of so many candidates but a look at one of the “front runners” may be informative.

Here is Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who a couple of long term Democrats watching one of her recent speeches in Iowa had eye rolling fits declaring her “boring”.  In an attempt to look chummy and like one of the regular guys, the Harvard law professor  posted a video on Instagram from her kitchen where she popped open a brewski and drank it out of the bottle. That was it; no political message attached.   Sorry Warren advisers, this cringe worthy episode looked like an obvious re-run of Hillary’s 2008 election visit to a tavern in Crown Point, Indiana where she tossed down a shot of Crown Royal Canadian whiskey and a beer chaser with the guys, duly recorded in a video.  At least neither Hillary nor Warren were wearing camo but it’s probably not a good plan to use Hillary as a campaign role model.

Likeability aside, here’s a simple classification of the possible candidates as a starter.  Unlike Trump, all of the possible Democratic candidates are politicians or former politicians although there are important differences in experience. At the outset, the primary battle seems to be shaping up as a battle between the radical left and the establishment left; the young Left and the old Left; the diversity Left and accepting of white males Left.  There is some overlap and some contradictions among the candidates however.

The Radical Left:

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialist, Independent, Senator from the rural commune of Vermont, who did unexpectedly well against the Clinton/DNC team in 2016. Bernie’s anti-capitalist, “revolutionary” rhetoric and goals attract a mix of young radicals and some so called “millennials”. But at age 77 now, and 80 if assuming office in January 2021, Bernie runs into trouble with the “old white guys” barrier which has become a popular meme among the “new Left” since 2016. Never mind that according to the “experts” on “political correctness”, college sophomores nation wide, this hostility is “ageist”, “racist”, and “sexist”. But Bernie will still excite some college radicals and get the liberal geezer vote.

The Identity Politics Left:

This was tried with mixed success, working for Obama who ran in 2008 as “the first Black President to be” and garnering 95 percent of the black vote.  To be fair, that vote was not enough to win and he attracted majorities from Hispanics , 67%, and Asians  67% well as 43% of the white vote to give him the win.  But the fact that he was an historically important candidate by virtue of his race can not be denied as contributing to his appeal. 

Hillary ran her “I am woman” “break the glass ceiling” campaigns in both 2008 and 2016 and came up short in both. Also,  in 2008 Obama was the only minority candidate and Hillary was the only female.  This was also true for her in 2016.  The situation for 2020 is more daunting for such candidates because there are several of each which will split the vote of these blocs.  Still, the motivation for this appeal appears enticing to many because of the clamor by the Left for “new leadership” which in many cases translates into the anti-“old white men” narrative.

Cory Booker:   The black Senator from New Jersey and former Mayor of Newark, NJ.  Booker is a fast talker with a tendency to shouting and theatrics  who has made, and will continue to make race a national campaign issue if he runs as expected.  This may win him approval with minority voters but could complicate the campaigns of the other minority candidates and hurt him with the non-minority majority of voters who are experiencing “race issue fatigue”.

Eric Holder: The former Attorney General in Obama’s first administration is known as “the first Black AG”.  He’s intelligent, articulate and knowledgeable about the political process in Washington D.C.  He is also highly partisan and was oriented towards the racial implications of social justice issues as Attorney General.  Ironically, he is the quintessential Washington “establishment” insider, going back and forth between a high profile law firm and government most of his career.  Also, in January, 2021 he will be an “old black man” of 70. 

Kamala Harris: The current junior Senator from California.  Harris’s political background is limited to her stint as District Attorney for San Francisco and then Attorney General of California.  Thus she’s a high profile minority in California but not so much nationally.  She is also currently light on the credentials side of the political ledger for the common but outdated “Leader of the free world” label. The “what about Trump” response doesn’t work for her or anyone else unless the Democrats are willing to accept the Trump anomaly as the new standard for POTUS.   She has tried to boost her status and name identification mostly by media coverage of the nomination hearings for former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, taking an overly hostile and confrontational approach which led the media to some how conflate rudeness as a positive attitude along with her being a black female and thus a “potential” presidential candidate. 

Julian Castro:   The former mayor of San Antonio, TX whose youth , 44, and third generation immigrant status check two of the boxes for the “new blood and diversity” movement in the Democratic Party.  Castro is the “ Hispanic candidate”. He portrays his brief political career as an example of how the nation’s largest minority group can achieve status and success.  His issues as Mayor and then as Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development were immigration, early education, and then housing assistance, and disaster relief.  He set himself on a political fast track starting with college politics at Stanford University.  He became the youngest member of the San Antonio City Council and then the youngest mayor.  He followed in Obama’s footsteps to gain attention as a Democratic “rising star” by delivering the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention before joining the Obama Administration.  He was mentioned, and then passed over, as Hillary’s Vice Presidential running mate.  With his thin resume’ and narrow focus on his Hispanic minority appeal which nevertheless would be important in “red” Texas, and “battleground” Florida, he looks more like a Vice Presidential candidate than a top of the ticket player, and that may well be part of his well planned political assent.  

Tulsi Gabbard:  Gabbard is a mixed race female whose background doesn’t offer support specific to a politically important minority group.  Born in American Samoa, her father is also mixed race, Samoan/Causcasion.  He mother is Caucasian but is a practicing Hindu. Gabbard is herself a practicing Hindu.  Her credentials for the presidency are had to find.  Her political experience includes the Honolulu city council and two years in the Hawaii House of Representatives and six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the district combining Honolulu and surrounding small towns.  She is apparently trying to use her veteran status from two Middle East tours in the Hawaii National Guard as resume’ filler.  But, and it’s a really big “but”, the ever vigilant far Left is already shouting heresy about Gabbard’s past positions while a legislator in Hawaii. Like her father, a Catholic active in his church and a state senator, she espoused anti-gay positions and legislation.  She has since claimed that she has “evolved” and apologized to the unforgiving activists on these issues.  “But”, again, she has praised Russia’s Putin for bombing Islamist insurgents in Syria and criticized Obama for not doing the same.  She has endorsed torture in extreme situations affecting U.S. national security and visited Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.  She is also connected to an extremist, anti-Islamic Hindu religious/political group in India.   
It took Charles Darwin’s evolution process about 3 million years to produce a walking, talking, modern, radical leftist Democrat (mistakes do happen; look at the duck billed platypus ).  But the amount of “evolving” Gabbard will have to claim to the forces of the Left and a hostile media to get past these politically incorrect heresies will resemble the Darwin process.

Women: The 2018 elections had a large number of female candidates and resulted in a record number of female members for the U.S. House of Representatives, virtually all Democrats.
This has pushed a narrative among the “Progressive” wing of the party that a woman should be on the Democratic ticket, preferably at the top but at least in line for the top as the Vice Presidential candidate.

No conditional requirement for such things as competence, experience, or leadership has been attached to the demand, as this is either assumed for all potential female candidates or is deemed less important than the symbolic achievement i.e. the “glass ceiling”. 

The result is that there are at least five female candidates so far.  Two, Harris and Gabbard are looking for support as possessors of all three “time for a . . .” characteristics, i.e. “young”, “woman”, “person of color”.   The third, Elizabeth Warren, morphed into an “old white woman” after her DNA fiasco took away her tomahawk, but many on the Left will probably forgive her being white, (“hey, she tried!”) if she looks like a front runner.

The remaining women who are prominently mentioned are New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobochar.  They both currently suffer from significant name identification problems and associated political records which don’t stand out from the crowd.
To raise money and generate enthusiasm, both will have to have high level performances in the numerous “debates”, which will be difficult given the initial high number of participants and the soft ball questions typically asked by the self-important moderators.
However, lacking controversy in their quasi-anonymity, they would both probably be safe choices for vice president by a male nominee seeking to “balance the ticket”.

That leaves most of the announced and speculative candidates who don’t fit into an obvious sub-category and who with a few exceptions can be only be described as “long shots”.  These are all sitting or former politicians and number about fifteen with perhaps more waiting in the wings.   The few prominent exceptions are the “old white men” Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg.  
 Bernie, a 2016 candidate who generated unexpected enthusiasm will probably be forgiven by his core supporters for not being able to pick his parents or sex and living too long.  Joe Biden, former Vice President in the Obama administration will likely benefit from an “admiration by association” effect with Obama.  Biden’s support, though currently leading others in early polls, can be partially, or even largely, attributed to that fact that Democrats know who he is. 
 His support however, seems to lack the emotional intensity of the “progressive” identity groups which include younger activists and voters.  Joe is “a good old boy”, a double edged attribute in the current political environment.
Michael Bloomberg, is a “former”; a former mayor of New York City; a former Republican; a former Independent, and formerly young.  Now he is a current billionaire, and “old white man” and a Democrat.
He’s intelligent, sophisticated, money wise and politically astute.  But he seems like a political anachronism and thus politically irrelevant in the new quest for political change. Nevertheless, he has the personal resources to stay in the race while the field narrows.

The other exception to the mostly anonymous group is Robert Francis (Beto) O’Rourke.  He’s not old (46), but he is a man.  He’s a little short on old fashioned presidential qualifications with just two terms representing the El Paso, TX area in the House of Representatives but he became a media made celebrity by losing (narrowly) to Ted Cruz in the 2018 race for Senator.  He thus achieved “rising star” status after months of pre-election liberal media assertions that he was turning conservative Texas “blue”.  

In terms of policy O’Rourke tried to walk the tight rope of not sounding to liberal to Texans while not offending his supporters by sounding too conservative.  He did most of this by limiting his policy preferences to generalistic platitudes about “more opportunity”, “better health”, “better education” etc.  He affirmed his loyalty to the Second Amendment on gun rights, a necessity in Texas,  but gambled with a call for universal background checks and a ban on “assault rifles” and large capacity magazines.   He may have over reached as far as the national progressive movement’s Republican haters and “resistance” movement are concerned with this quote from his senatorial campaign web site: 

“ He has made it a priority to work across the aisle to secure bipartisan support for his legislation, because Beto knows our country is at its best when we can put party aside to work together, build consensus and find common ground.”

So essentially, he probably has fallen into the possible Vice Presidential candidate category if a female becomes the Democratic candidate for President.  

The Rest of the Herd:   Have you ever heard of John Delaney, Eric Swawell,
 Richard Ojeda?   How about Steve Bulluck, Pete Buttigieg, Roy Cooper? These are announced candidates for President; there are others.  These are all elected officials at the state, local and national level who have grand ambitions and believe that “Anyone can be President of the U.S. if . . .”  But presidential politics has become a billion dollar popularity contest which includes a level of viciousness and character assassination carried out without accountability on social media, ideologically steeped web sites and opinion pages. If you haven’t already been “vetted” i.e. examined from birth for social insensitivities, and are now forced to  build name identification starting from scratch, you have an enormous challenge.  

In the initial stages of the campaign, the candidates will run against Trump not each other.  They will engage in similar panel show discourse with generalities, platitudes and rally slogans about “income inequality”, the threat to the environment, middle class tax cuts, jobs, “the wall”, “immigration reform” etc.  Even in the early debates, they will be reluctant to offend the other candidates supporters by strong criticism of each other.  But eventually, with so many candidates, the realization that in order to achieve some separation in the polls will become apparent and they will have to engage in separation from their competitor’s policy goals.  They all can’t be for and against the same things. Then is will get nastier and more interesting. The money will follow the polls and the media’s “who won the debate” pronouncements and the herd will be thinned quickly.
In the mean time Trump will go crazy trying to Tweet insults about this many candidates but he’s up to the challenge.