Slade Gorton on Impeachment

Slade Gorton, a Republican, was the U.S. Senator from Washington from 1981 to 1987, and again from 1989 to 2001. Gorton’s opinion letter I’ve copied below was published in the New York Times on Monday, November 25. Cathy McMorris Rodgers would do well to read it and ponder her place in history. So far “she doesn’t yet see anything that would be impeachable,” trying to sound thoughtful while parroting the Republican Party lines. Apparently, Donald Trump’s extorting  the Ukraine for personal political gain is OK by her.

Gorton’s letter:

My Fellow Republicans, Please Follow the Facts It seems clear to me that the president of Ukraine was subjected to a shakedown.

In March of 1974, as a young state attorney general, I reluctantly called for President Richard Nixon’s resignation amid revelations of abuses of power related to Watergate. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. As a Republican, I didn’t enjoy breaking with my party or my president. As an elected official and practical politician, I didn’t particularly enjoy the implications of turning against someone who had comfortably carried Washington State just two years earlier. None of it was pleasant, but I believed it was the right thing to do on the facts and on the merits.

John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” Forty-five years after Mr. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached by the House, the facts should be the focus of every elected official, Republican or Democrat, as they decide what to do about another president facing impeachment and a possible Senate trial.

To my fellow Republicans, I give this grave and genuine warning: It’s not enough merely to dismiss the Ukraine investigation as a partisan witch hunt or to hide behind attacks against the “deep state,” or to try to find some reason to denounce every witness who steps forward, from decorated veterans to Trump megadonors.

History demands that we all wrestle with the facts at hand. They are unavoidable. Fifty years from now, history will not accept the position that impeachment was a referendum on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. It must be a verdict reached on the facts.

My judgment so far as an objective observer is that there are multiple actions on this president’s part that warrant a vote of impeachment in the House, based on corroborated testimony that Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressured leaders of Ukraine to investigate the Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden and his family.

From what I have read, it seems clear that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was subjected to a shakedown — pressured to become a foreign participant in President Trump’s re-election campaign, a violation of the law.

Several credible witnesses have testified to the existence of a quid pro quo, including William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House’s top Ukraine expert; and Gordon Sondland, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the European Union. They and others have testified that there was a push for politically motivated investigations, and three of them were so alarmed that they attempted to report their concerns up the chain of command at the National Security Council.

Are they to be believed? Here’s my bottom line: That’s what an impeachment inquiry and a Senate trial are designed to find out. That’s why there’s a process under the Constitution.

But make no mistake: This is precisely the kind of crisis Alexander Hamilton feared. In Federalist No. 75, he warned that a president might be tempted to betray the interests of the country for his own benefit, “to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand”; that “an avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth”; that a president might “make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.”

Given the temptations a president might have in dealing with foreign powers, Hamilton’s solution was equally clear: Congress should be involved. “The participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them,” he wrote of treaties. And in the same vein, the founders gave Congress the power to check a president accused of abusing the power of his office. They expected Congress to render its judgment on the facts.

So, to my fellow Republicans who have been willing only to attack the process, I say: engage in the process. If the president is innocent, use the process to surface those exculpatory facts so that Congress and the country can agree whether or not Mr. Trump should be removed from office. The facts — not rhetoric — should answer this question: Is there an offense serious enough to undo the results of the 2016 election?

A heavy burden to meet, but not an impossible one.

Here’s what I know: Neither the country nor the Constitution is served by a partisan shouting match divorced from the facts, a process boycotted by one side refusing to engage on the merits. John Adams is still right 250 years later: Facts are stubborn things. Facts are what should determine whether a stubborn president stays in office. Republicans, don’t fight the process, follow the facts wherever they lead, and put country above party.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. For the record, in the Senate trial of President William Clinton in January/February of 1999, one year earlier in the election cycle than the trial we may soon see, Slade Gorton voted Not Guilty on the article of Perjury and Guilty on the article of Obstruction of Justice.

Twenty-two months after that impeachment trial, in November of 2000, Albert Gore, Clinton’s VP, won the popular vote (with a smaller majority than Hillary Clinton received in November 2016), but George W. Bush squeaked by in the Electoral College (271-266), thanks to legal machinations in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2000 I believed, reluctantly, that Gore’s concession was the statesmanlike thing to do for the good of the country, that Gore conceded to a code of decency and rule of law in which both parties believed. I was naive. In 2000 Republicans were already poised to abandon both decency and the rule of law in their pursuit of power, a path that is in no way more evident than in their current defense of the conduct of Donald J. Trump.

Spokane’s “Daily Caller”

“Dark Agenda, The War to Destroy Christian America” by David Horowitz leaps off a full page ad (A8) in the Spokesman last Thursday, November 21. (Scroll down to see a screenshot of the ad. Ads in the Spokesman are internet ephemera, they cannot be retrieved online after 30 days.)

Full page ads cost several thousand dollars to place in the Spokesman for a single day, depending on the day of the week and the exact placement. The Spokesman, like most print papers, needs the revenue, but this ad with its upper border of barbed-wire evoking a Nazi death camp, is thinly disguised Republican/Libertarian propaganda and marketing that is masquerading as a book ad.

The Spokesman ad offers the nominally $29.95 book for “free.” If you go to the ad’s website, you’ll find the book is “free” for $4.95 shipping and handling costs–and access to your address, phone number, and email. This ad is like a hand reaching up to pull curious readers down a rabbit hole where they will find themselves surrounded by right wing propaganda (and ads for bogus and costly methods to cure erectile dysfunction and obesity). This ad is not about selling Horowitz’ book, it is a trapdoor into a whole right wing ecosystem.

A naive reader need not descend into the rabbit hole for the ad to serve its purpose. An uncontested statement like, “Horowitz reveals:…Why Hollywood stars like Bill Maher, who belligerently states ‘religion must die in order for mankind to live,’ are finding a huge following among the Democratic left and Millennials.” is marvelously reinforcing for any slightly aggrieved Evangelical Christian already primed from the pulpit to uncritically accept these ideas.

Like Steve Bannon, David Horowitz is best described as a “conservative provocateur.” Horowitz is 80 years old, a convert to rabid conservatism from the Marxism of his early years. He is the polarizing product of a polarized youth. Culturally Jewish, but a self described agnostic, he writes to inflame Evangelicals’ bunker mentality against all that is not Trump. Horowitz is part of the Koch “Dark Money” ecosystem, running a non-profit [501(c)(3)] “think tank,” the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The “Freedom Center” is partly funded by the far right Bradley Foundation (which features prominently in Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money.”) The “Freedom Center” has current revenue of seven million dollars. Horowitz’ think tank is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “a far-right organization and anti-Muslim hate group.”

This man is allowed to buy a full page ad in our regional newspaper, the Spokesman Review, a newspaper with pretenses of trying to heal the divisions within our society? Shame on the Spokesman. This is an ad suited for The Daily Caller, not our local paper.

I encourage my readers to register their opinions of this this ad as a letter to the editor or an email to Rob Curley at or Stacey Cowles at .

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Beware. David Horowitz is a common name. The characters with this name are highly varied. Learn about the provocateur David Horowitz so you can accurately identify the rubbish he writes. 

Seattle-Tax Sinkhole or Source?

“All (or most) of our tax money goes to Seattle.” Ever hear that? It’s a point of view that appeals to the universal human tendency to believe we pay more than our fair share. It is statement that is easy to believe. Depending on your point of view, Seattle either has so many more public amenities or so many more problems than rural Washington it must use up more than its share of state revenues. It just “stands to reason,” doesn’t it? Well, no.

The truth is that, any way one parses the numbers, every county in Eastern Washington receives more money from the State of Washington General Fund than its taxpayers pay in. In other words, the economic activities, i.e. the taxpayers, on the west side of the State of Washington are subsidizing the residents of the east side.

There is a special irony here. Stevens County, the epicenter of Rep. Matt Shea’s theocratic State of Liberty secession movement, ranks number two (with a ratio of 2.00) among counties of Washington State for the highest ratio per capita dollars received over tax dollars remitted, bested for this dubious title only by Ferry County, it’s neighbor to its west. (Spokane County ranks 24th out of the 39 counties with a ratio of 1.33, i.e. we’re still a net consumer of state funds.) Visit the State of Liberty website to read their lie about taxes.

If you have read of this 2.00 ratio before and wondered if it were true, you are not alone. I wish to thank Danny Westneat, a columnist for the Seattle Times, for the link to the source of the numbers, Washington State’s Office of Financial Management (OFM).  (Westneat’s article, “Why are we exporting billions of dollars around the state?’ The coming showdown over Seattle’s money,” is a response to the passage of Eyman’s I-976. It is well worth reading.)

The document that presents the detailed statistics, “State Expenditures and Revenues by County: Fiscal Year 2016,” can be reached from the OFM’s website, but the link is not obvious–a general problem with government data.

The Washington State’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) is not in the business of teaching statistics (or civics) or putting out flashy press releases to the general public. That is unfortunate, because this is exactly the data one needs to counter the fact-free arguments of politicians like Matt Shea.

The document, “State Expenditures and Revenues by County: Fiscal Year 2016” is worth a look. It is not an easy read, couched in jargon made worse by confusingly written notes. Nonetheless, it is the real data. The confusion arises fundamentally from the intricate and confusing nature of Washington State’s tax system.

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure of all the states of the Union. Lacking an income tax, Washington State relies on a complex mixture of sales taxes, property taxes, and a “Business and Occupation Tax” to fund state activities. (I explain those funding sources in the context of the article WA School Funding and Taxes.) Teasing out the state’s portion of revenue from county and city taxes is no small task. The complexity of the revenue side of our state funding works to the advantage of those who perpetuate simplistic, self-serving myths like “Seattle depends on our east side tax dollars.”

But now you know the source for the truth.

Keep to the high ground,

Science v. Belief

If you believe, as a tenet of faith, that the earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs walked the earth with humans, then Ohio Republicans want to be sure you suffer no academic consequences for expressing your belief in class or in your homework. The Ohio House of Representatives wants this made a matter of law.

Below I’ve copied a portion of Doug Muder’s Weekly Sift post from November 18, discussing a bill that recently passed the House in The State of Ohio. The indented quote-within-the-quote is buried on lines 424-428 of otherwise mind-numbing legal reading. It’s implications are broad and disturbing, for reasons Mr. Muder clearly explains. Ohio is far from Washington State, but the folks that pushed this bill have like-minded allies in every state legislature in the country.
Understanding that any legislature will have a few crazies, I try not to get excited about every ridiculous bill that gets introduced somewhere. (Most will vanish in committee and aren’t worth your outrage.) But Ohio’s “Student Religious Liberties Act” (full text) has passed the House and now moves to the [Ohio] Senate, so it’s worth paying attention to.

The bill states that no school authority (there’s a long list of them, starting with the local board of education)

shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.

So six-day creation, Noah’s flood, light speeding up so that distant stars can be visible despite the universe only being 10,000 years old — if that’s what your religion says, you can express it on a test and still get an A. Heck, nothing in the bill restricts its scope to specific classes, so if your religion says 2 + 2 = 5, that’s an OK answer too.

The bill passed 61-31, with Republicans voting for it 59-0 and Democrats against it 2-31. Maybe the two parties really aren’t the same.
There is no specified penalty in this bill. The parents of a student receiving a B on homework in which the student incorporates religious expression may complain and point to the law–or they might sue the teacher as a “show” case (with the backing of Republican deep pockets). If I felt a calling to teach biology or geology in public school I would steer clear of Ohio.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I suspect Republican legislators vote in lockstep with the religious right on such matters on account of the bunker mentality of their Evangelical voters, a bunker mentality buttressed with propaganda campaigns like Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas.” Read the section entitled “Present-day Controversy” in the wikipedia chapter “Christmas controversies” for enlightenment. Then steel yourself for the upcoming holidays and those old white men who growl “Merry Christmas” in response any less specifically religious greeting.

We Make National News-Again

White supremacy in the Inland Northwest never went away. When Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake were sued into bankruptcy in 2000 we told ourselves the comforting story that the region had been cleansed of his ilk. We were wrong. Richard Butler’s ideas have been bubbling and festering here just beneath the surface all along. Two stories that appeared in national media in the last two weeks illustrate the point.

A superficially cute story entitled “Whodunit in the Library: Someone Keeps Hiding the Anti-Trump Books” appeared in the November 10 issue of the New York Times. The author, Mike Baker, picked up on the story from the local Coeur d’Alene media. Mr. Baker takes the opportunity to review the last time the Coeur d’Alene library dealt with book disappearances–during the 1980s and 1990s, the time of the Aryan Nations compound, a series of bombings, and Nazi parades in the region. The linkage Mr. Baker implies could hardly be clearer: the current occupant of the White House has helped inspire another wave of white supremacist migration to our region and a re-awakening that is starting to appear in local actions. It is time to pay attention. This superficially cute story has a hard edge.

On November 8 the Guardian published “Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia.” another in a series of articles by Jason Wilson, a Portland, Oregon based writer. Mr. Wilson expands on his previous reporting of Matt Shea (Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane), Heather Scott (ID State Rep from Bonner County), Mike Munch and Caleb Collier (former City of Spokane Valley councilmen and Shea allies), and the intertwined Patriot Movement, the proposed theocratic Liberty State, and the Redoubter movement. The extent of these movements, the number of elected offices they have held and still hold, and their extremist views should give us all pause.

With the bankrupting, sale, and bulldozing of the Aryan Nations compound in the early 2000s many imagined that was the end of it. We were wrong. Not only have Aryan Nations and related ideologies risen once again in the region, but their believers are serving in elected office. It is long past time to pay attention before we make more national news.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Here’s one for the department of “You can’t make this stuff up.” Richard Butler lost his Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, ID in 2000. A Sandpoint white supremacist millionaire, Vincent Bertollini, provided Butler with a place to live in Hayden Lake where he died in his sleep of congestive heart failure at age 86 in 2004. The year before he was with his traveling companion, Wendy Christine Iwanow, age 31, at the Spokane Airport when she was arrested on an outstanding forgery warrant. Ms. Iwanow “stage name” as a porn star was…wait for it…Bianca Trump.


Last week, on November 13, I sat in the gallery above the U.S. Senate and watched Mitch McConnell shuffle across the Senate floor, stooped in age, to cast his vote in favor of yet another judicial candidate deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association (but, no doubt, put forward by the very Republican/Libertarian Federalist Society). McConnell looked self-satisfied, a man making good on his commitment to cement a Republican majority not just in the Supreme Court, but in the lower courts as well, a man who pretended fealty to Senate procedure, but only until he sensed the time was right to pitch out Senate tradition and reach for the brass ring of minority domination of the federal government. (This President and the numerical Senate majority represent a minority of American voters.)

As I watched McConnell in the flesh, I remembered how he stiff-armed the nomination of Merrick Garland, Obama’s moderate nominee to the Supreme Court, for more than a year and then smugly announced that, of course, he would replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg right up to the last moment of the Trump presidency if given the chance.

Mitch McConnell is among those I struggle not to despise. Once I believed McConnell at least respected Senate tradition. Now I believe his sole purpose in life is the pursuit of power. McConnelI is 77 years old. He has served as the U.S. Senator from Kentucky since 1985 and as the leader of Senate Republicans since 2006, establishing a record in both positions. Despite his drabness he is arguably the most powerful politician in Washington. He is singlehandedly responsible for blocking moderate nominees to the federal court system, then filling them with Federalist Society approved ideologues. Meanwhile he has blocked votes on nearly all legislation coming from the House.

As I observed his shuffling frailty on the Senate floor I found encouragement that his grip on power might end: First, McConnell has a very credible candidate running against him in Kentucky for his Senate seat in 2020, Retired Lt. Col Amy McGrath. She is gathering a lot of backing, both moral and financial. Second, the incumbent governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin (R), having just lost to Democrat Andy Beshear, is making an ass out of himself and his Republican backers by claiming voter fraud on the basis of no evidence (Trump playbook?). Beshear (D) was elected by an energized Democratic electorate. The turnout was 42.16 percent compared to the 31 percent turnout when Bevin (R) was elected in 2015. This time Bevin (R) got more raw votes than in 2015–and still lost.  Hope is in the air.

But back to McConnell. Song has often been used as a political tool. With that in mind, I invite you to spend five minutes listening to an ingenious composition by two musicians of my acquaintance entitled “Song for McConnell.” Share widely. They’ve adapted an old Irish ballad to a new situation with soberly amusing results.

Keep to the high ground,

Bribery is the Word for This

Forget quid pro quo. It misses the point. Donald Trump was engaged in bribery, the impeachable offense detailed in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

Bribery: “the act of persuading (someone) to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement”

Quid pro quo: “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something” literally “something for something.”

Testimony in the House impeachment hearing is clear (unless you listen exclusively to the ever more shrill Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh). Donald Trump in his July 25th call with Zelensky wants “a favor.” [Read the rough transcript.] Like any seasoned mobster, Trump hints at what he is offering in return for the “favor” he asks. Funds already approved by Congress and essential to Ukraine’s ongoing effort to stop Russian aggression in its eastern provinces have been held up by Trump’s order. Trump knows this. Zelensky knows this. Giuliani and Sondland know this. It doesn’t need to be spelled out in a single phone call. That is not the way these things work. (Here’s the timeline.) Toward the end of the call Trump offers something else Zelensky wants, an honored visit to the White House to burnish Zelensky’s image back home. Trump offers this right after he re-iterates that the contact people for the deal are “Rudy and Attorney General Barr.” Such offers, “I will do x and y if you do z” are never quite explicit.

The inducement in return for the political “favor” Trump wants is two-fold, final release of the funds Trump has specifically held up and a White House visit. This is bribery. Call it what it is.

We learn in other testimony something I find in some ways more damning. Trump isn’t so much interested in the performance of or even the result of an investigation. He is most interested in the Ukrainian government making an announcement that it is opening an investigation. It is the public doubt engendered by the announcement of an investigation that Trump really wants–a purely personal political maneuver. An actual investigation is immaterial to his purpose.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Some may wonder why not “extortion”? It is a term very closely allied with bribery, but not specified in the Constitution. Trump functions as a gangster. He is making a threat to withhold vital funds unless Ukraine offers him the “favor” of announcing an investigation of Trump’s political rival.

Extortion: “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats”

The difference is linguistic, a matter of nuance. Bribery is specified in the Constitution.

P.P.S. I watched Sean Hannity on Fox “News” last Wednesday evening (almost by accident). It was instructive of desperate Republican tactics. Besides the loaded wording and belligerent Republican Congressperson interviewees, he even went to the trouble of showing a video of Adam Schiff reading a Republican screed against impeachment, a video carefully edited to make it look as though Schiff were damning himself. I’ve never seen purer, shriller, partisan propaganda.