Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pelosi quashes I-word -- for now -- March 14, 2019 column


The front-page headline in the New York Post blared: “PELOSI BLINKS.”

A smaller one read: “`He’s just not worth it,’ says speaker.”

He, of course, is President Donald Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made headlines Tuesday when she said, “I’m not for impeachment.”

Did she blink? Hardly.

Pelosi has been playing down impeachment talk since she became speaker, urging Democrats to wait for various investigations to yield hard evidence before rushing to impeach.  

Her comments made news because the interview with Joe Heim in The Washington Post Magazine, published Monday, was the first time she stated her position so succinctly to a reporter.

Some in Trump’s camp evidently felt comforted by Pelosi’s comments.

“I’m glad she sees what the rest of us see, that there is no reason, no cause for impeachment,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Fox News, typically mischaracterizing what Pelosi said.

Trump, taking the role of victim, cries harassment and calls all investigations a witch hunt.

No one should labor under the delusion Pelosi is giving Trump a Get out of Jail Free card.

Asked if Trump is fit to be president, she said no, he is “ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit.”

Pelosi wants Trump out, but the canny strategist wants to oust him the old-fashioned way – through the electoral process.

She also wants Democrats to retain control of the House and regain the Senate. The last may be wishful thinking, but none of her goals has a prayer if Democrats lose sight of their policy agenda and alienate a wide swath of the electorate, especially 
independent and moderate voters in swing districts.

Impeachment would draw attention away from such Democratic goals as reducing prescription drug costs and ending gender discrimination in the workplace.

So Pelosi has slowed the impeachment train, although some congressional Democrats, like Rep. Al Green of Texas, who first introduced an articles of impeachment resolution in January 2017, and some House freshmen vow to continue their efforts.

Pelosi’s statement provides political cover for Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, and other Democratic chairmen who face pressure to impeach.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who reportedly plans to spend $40 million in the 2020 election cycle to get Trump impeached, has run ads in Nadler’s and others’ districts, urging them to get on with it.

Nadler launched a sweeping investigation into possible wrongdoing by Trump and has said he believes Trump has committed obstruction of justice. But Nadler said he needs to gather evidence.

The constitutional grounds for impeachment are not whether one finds the president personally odious or his policies wrong-headed. The grounds are “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

It takes time to build a case and the necessary public support for such a wrenching take-down. President Richard Nixon held on and did not resign until Republican congressional leaders broke the bad news that he was about to be impeached. 

Voting to impeach Trump prematurely would be the political equivalent of downing a large piece of chocolate lava cake while dieting – delicious in the moment but ultimately a self-defeating indulgence.

The reality is even if the House were to vote to impeach Trump, a trial in the Senate would not remove him from office, not at this point with a GOP majority, and failed impeachment could redound to the benefit of Republicans.

Pelosi was in the House when Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton, failed in the Senate to remove him from office – and lost seats in the next election.    

Pelosi did leave the door ajar for impeachment of Trump someday, but said it’s so divisive it should be avoided “unless there’s something so compelling and bipartisan.”

Compelling and bipartisan are good standards. There’s also a question of timing. 

Unless impeachment proceedings take place this year, 2020 may be too late. Impeachment proceedings would take over the campaign and incite Trump voters.   

Pelosi likes to quote Lincoln: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

If Democrats want to succeed, they should listen to and trust the experienced Nancy Pelosi.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

First Hispanic Supreme aims not to be the last -- March 7, 2019 column


As a child growing up in the South Bronx projects, Sonia Sotomayor never dreamed of being on the Supreme Court.

“You cannot dream of something you don’t know about,” she said, adding, “That has been the most important lesson of my life.”

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in history, has made it her mission to inspire children with words we seldom hear anymore from anyone in public life.  

“Everything in life is hard. To get anywhere, to do anything, you have to work at it,” she said March 1 in a conversation with actress Eva Longoria Bastón at George Washington University.

The auditorium was filled not with college students but schoolchildren, many of them Hispanic, and Sotomayor spoke Spanish as well as English.

“You’ve got to work hard, you have to study hard, you have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, but there can still be hope,” she said. “And I want every child to live in the world knowing dreams can come true.”

She’s been on tour to promote her latest book, “Turning Pages: My Life Story,” a children’s picture book in Spanish and English, which she called, “a great way to learn Spanish or if you have to learn English.”

Showing photos in the book of her family and herself as a child, she said: “I look like a lot of you – don’t I?”

When President Barack Obama named Sotomayor to the court in 2009, he called  her “an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice.”

His choice sent a powerful message to the Latino community and all minorities that America still can be the land of opportunity – a message needed even more today than a decade ago.  

Sotomayor, 65, was born in New York City, where her mother, an Army veteran, and her father relocated from Puerto Rico. Her dad, a tool-and-die maker, did not speak English; her mom, a nurse in a methadone clinic, was fanatical that Sonia and her brother learn English and get a good education.

After her father died when she was 9, young Sonia went to the library to escape the sadness at home.

“Reading is the key to your success in life,” she said.

Asking if her young listeners had library cards, she said: “Make your parents take you tomorrow to sign up.”

As part of her mission, she also promotes civics -- “the most important class you can ever take in school.” She serves on the board of iCivics, founded by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, which teaches civics through video games.

In her pre-video game youth, Sotomayor was inspired by watching “Perry Mason” on TV. The first iteration of the popular TV legal drama and who-done-it ran from 1957 to 1966. 

Sotomayor attended Princeton University. Her first job out of Yale Law School was as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. She was named a U.S. District Court judge by President George H.W. Bush and to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton.

“Yes, it’s a little bit harder when you come from a background a lot of other people don’t come from,” she said.

But asked how her Puerto Rican heritage influences her, she credits it with instilling her identity and values.

“It’s not just food or music or poetry, it’s the way you learn to love one another as a family,” she said. 

When Obama nominated her, critics said she wasn’t “smart enough” to be a Supreme Court justice, she told the kids.

“That hurt me a lot,” and she started to doubt herself. But she didn’t let her doubts stop her.

She had faced fear at an early age. At age 7, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and, terrified of needles, had to learn to give herself insulin shots.

She steeled herself to the task by emulating a character in her favorite comic book.

“Maybe I can find the bravery Supergirl has,” she thought at the time.

She urged her young listeners not to let fear stop them from pursuing their dreams.

“We all have courage inside us.”