BY JOHN SHAFFER
On Saturday, The FBI released a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application. It was 412 pages long, and perhaps because it was so verily heavily redacted, opponents of and proponents of President Trump each claim it supports their positions. The application had been filed so the FBI could receive a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page. Mr. Page was, briefly, an advisor to the Trump Campaign. The warrant was granted in October 2016, about a month before the election. Republicans have always had suspicions about the entire process, and we think Democrats would have as well, were the shoe on the other foot. The mere fact that a warrant was sought at that point should have raised plenty of red flags, because America does not have a mechanism to investigate “political crimes,” nor do we have a police force to investigate them. At least we didn’t, until the Obama Administration began this investigation. Any law enforcement official who believed in his oath of office should have been very wary of sniffing around a political campaign, especially so close to the election. Also, the same FBI that was profoundly concerned about Carter Page and a few other Trump operatives and their “connections” to Russia was shockingly uninterested in many other things, such as Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails, or in actually inspecting the Democratic National Committee’s server that reportedly was “hacked.” Come to think of it, the FBI didn’t care very much about the several hundred thousand dollars that Mrs. Clinton’s husband received from Russians for making a not very lengthy speech. In our opinion, the FBI should not have been concerned about any of those things – from the Clinton Campaign or the Clinton Family, nor from the Trump Campaign nor the Trump family, because American law enforcement agencies should not be fishing for intelligence that might lead to theories from which they could derive information that might be interpreted as perhaps being potentially illegal behavior.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
What to make of President Trump? Some voters hoped he would be different; others feared he would be different. His comments at his Helsinki joint-press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin have been excoriated by the folks who disliked the President; they have been harshly criticized by most of the folks who support him; and they definitely play into the point that has been made on many occasions: President Trump is his own worst enemy – that he, by careless and casual, unclear and incomplete, eruptive and evidently thoughtless ways he says things - upsets the people who want to be his supporters, outrages the people who already disagree with him; and worries the people who just want to get along with him or with America.
Let us be clear: Russia is not our friend. They, and China, are the two largest threats to peace, and generally speaking in one way or another they have been suborning or bankrolling or giving material support to most of the “bad guys” in the world: North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and many of the international terrorism groups that have inflicted so much misery on the rest of us. They have been doing those things for decades, and American presidents of both parties have often gone out of their way not to "offend" Russia or China, and on those occasions when our Presidents have challenged them, it’s a safe bet that the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, academia, and “intelligent opinion” have taken the side of – Russia. They did so against Ronald Reagan; considering him a bigger danger than Communism. It really is laughable to hear many of the voices accusing President Trump of “treason” or “being in Putin’s pocket” or worse, because we remember that just a few months or a few years ago they were dismissing the threats from Russia and were more worried that American Presidents were “provocative” or “had a Cold War mentality” than that they were too friendly to Russia or failed to take such threats seriously. It was nearly eight weeks after the 2016 election that President Obama made any serious sanctions on Russia for its behavior in that election. John Brennan, the former CIA Director who has accused President Trump of treason for his press conference performance, himself voted for a Communist candidate for US President in 1976 and did not seem very concerned about Russian aggression or territorial ambitions or geopolitical threats when he was in office. Many of the Democrat members of Congress who have assailed President Trump for being too weak against Russia blasted Ronald Reagan for being too harsh. The Obama administration pulled, at the last minute, defensive missiles from Poland and others of our allies, and did so abruptly, unraveling years of patient diplomacy that had prepared the way for their installation. Was this because the Obama administration saw Russia as a threat? It also stood by as Russia annexed the Crimea and part of Georgia, and as it threatened other American allies – successor states of the former Soviet Union who truly understood the danger posed by Russia. This after the “reset” of our relations from the dark days of the Bush administration, which was seen as failing to appreciate Russia’s geopolitical needs.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and to listen to the hyberbolic, hysterical, overblown remarks made in opposition to the nomination that Donald Trump was nominating Satan, Stalin, Hitler or some equally loathsome person. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cleverly played the almost equally apocalyptic criticisms that the progressive left had of Justice Kennedy himself and of Justice David Souter at the time of their nominations. Both men were appointed by Republican Presidents and both were excoriated as evil. Neither proved to be the doctrinaire Conservative that the critics were excited about. As it turned out, Justice Kennedy was known for most of his court career as “The Swing Vote” and Justice Souter would retire with a reputation as a liberal. Both Justices disappointed Republicans far more often than they upset the Democrats.
Of course, many of the folks criticized for their conservative, Constitutionalist philosophy in fact turned out to be conservatives, but the court’s four liberals rarely cast a non-liberal vote (although all of them assented to unanimous decisions overturned several of President Obama’s unconstitutional overreaches). Americans do not share the same opinion on any subject, and we should not expect Justices to do so – but we deserve to have Justices that are rigorous champions of the Constitution, who apply the laws fairly and make decisions on merit, not on politics. The present court in a series of 5-4 decisions, overturned several decisions made by US District Court Judges who sought to stop (or resist) Trump Administration policy on the travel ban from seven countries, and in cases purging voter rolls, Congressional redistricting (although not in Pennsylvania), public unions collecting fees from non-members, and ruling a baker did not discriminate illegally when he refused to cater a gay wedding.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
Political parties hold primary elections to determine their nominees for the general elections, and typically, in both major parties, an incumbent who seeks another term is renominated. No, it doesn’t happen every time; and incumbents do lose general elections, but sometimes an “outsider” victor in a primary can tell us more about the direction that party is taking than the outcome of a general election.
Back in 2010, Mike Lee took on incumbent Republican Senator Bob Bennett, a three-term, “establishment” candidate – and he defeated him in the caucus and went on to win a resounding victory in the general election. Mr. Bennett was a conservative Republican, and a reliable one on almost every issue – but he was not an articulate champion of causes but instead a standard politician. Mr. Lee’s unseating of an incumbent was an indication that the voters were prepared to turn away from an “old guard” candidate and move toward a more active, and activist outsider who emphasized core principles over political clout and the powers of the office.
Similarly, last week Democrats in New York State’s 14th Congressional district unseated incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley, giving the nomination to 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Cong. Crowley was a liberal Democrat, and, a reliable one; He had served since 1999, had risen to be the fourth-ranking Democrat in the US House and was considered a smart money alternative to Nancy Pelosi the next time the party chose its leader. Cong. Crowley was expected to roll to a decisive victory, especially considering that his opponent, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was a Democratic Socialist. But she also was much younger, more active and energetic, and was an outsider challenging the “Old Guard.” She won.