When Roger Stone’s commutation was announced, because I have a couple of Facebook pages with about almost 5,000 “friends”, I asked this question:
The biggest question for me about Roger Stone's commutation is:
"What are the Democrats going to do about it?"
Here are a few of the answers I got from readers about it, picked at random:
JP “They can’t do a thing right now. But they will. We just have to vote him and his minions out. Mitch has got to go. Dems have to take the senate”
EM “It’s like fighting Satan”
LZ “What do you think they can do about it ????????”
PB “They can’t do a damn thing. Like when W. Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence.”
LH “What can they do about it....like it or not tRump has that power...all we can do is to point out this corruptible, unethical action as another demonstration of the unfitness of tRump.....Nov 3 can’t get here soon enough...”
CC-E “Same thing we’re doing about Russia’s interferences Nothing”
JP “Not a damn thing and it’s so sad”
DB “Nothing they can do it’s a presidential pardon”
SS “Can’t do anything until we flip the senate in November! So VOTE BLUE”
And here’s a more formal answer from a important key Democrat. Business Insider wrote, “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she wants to implement a law that would prohibit a president from granting clemency to someone who is sentenced for a crime that is assisting the president.”
And here’s Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC: “The hard truth, one we must reckon with together, is that there is no easy way out. There’s only the hard work we’re putting in together, every day, to build a movement powerful enough to defeat Trump and elect Democrats up and down the ticket.”
(So immediately we know the Speaker of the House thinks immediately in terms of “laws”, a very traditional and time-honored approach, by-the-book, perfectly in keeping with an experienced Representative … yet, we know it hasn’t worked very well yet in this Trump Administration because Mitch McConnell has blocked most laws the House produced and does so regularly. And the Chair of the DNC thinks only in terms of winning the election – toppling Trump, flipping the Senate, and holding the House … a tall order and, as I’m fond of saying, betting it all on one thing.)
What can we can conclude from all of this?
(1) “Can’t do anything right now” [terrible feeling at the pit of the stomach];
(2) “Vote them out” , viewed as the only possible way to handle it, what I call a “one-shot” deal -- betting everything on it and hoping all three things will happen when we hold the House, flip the Senate and topple Trump for Biden; and
(3) “Write and pass a law”, which will supposedly solve everything, even though the House has already done 200+ times without success, given that McConnell will block it. Maybe with the hope that if the House is held, the Senate flipped, and the Presidency claimed by Biden, it will be done.
Underneath it all, what I hear and see here is an ingrained feeling of powerlessness, an inability to consider any model for action except acceptance of the status quo, a self-defeating viewpoint of the way things must be. It’s deeply ingrained: We an do nothing OR we can vote OR we can pass a law.
Well, how about trying a few other off-the-wall approaches?
- Like, for instance, starting a law suit that claims the President’s power of pardons and commutations are invalid by their very nature when it involves anyone accused in a crime connected to him? Surely a good law firm could make a strong case for this. It would have to go to the Supreme Court but would be worth a try. Even if it were defeated it would raise the issue and the issue would be out in the open and ripe for a confrontation.
- Or perhaps fast-tracking the impeachment of Barr based on the all evidence we already have. As a prelude to it, defunding his office right now. Subpoenaing him and trying to arrest him if he does not appear under oath. Reaching in the DOJ to call witness after witness showing how he has destroyed their morale. Even if this failed, it would begin to show that the Democrats have power and teeth and willingness to use it to get what they deserve lawfully.
- Or maybe finding a law firm willing to question the DOJ’s decision, written without any outside authority, that the President cannot be charged with any crime while in office, and taking that as far as it goes. On this, the Democrats have rolled over completely, never fought it, and it would rock the country as a legal battle because it is completely without precedent. And, if this battle were lost, Heavens, it would only codify what too many people have accepted an iron-clad ruling already.
- Or, what about finding a New York statute that Stone has broken and getting the State of New York to pursue it. Ditto for the others that Trump is planning on pardoning or commuting. This would nullify the protection Barr could offer. No reason why the House and the State of New York could work an extraordinary deal to combine forces on this because extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
- Or consider creating an ongoing series of TV ads denouncing just what Trump has done to educate the public about just how scurrilous his actions have been using his power to pardon. The Lincoln Project does this and in record time, too. Repetitive as all hell, yes, but doesn’t that work with corporate ads as a matter of course?
- Or just calling Stone under subpoena to testify, along with all the prosecutors who worked on his case, making a Goddamn circus of what Trump just did? Showing just how venial Stone really is.
- Or even making an issue of the bounty Putin put on the heads of our soldiers, which Trump has ignored? I bring this up because a parade, day after day, of witnesses and people saying the same thing, over and over again, garners news, and garners attention, and works to weaken what Trump does daily, which is to create chaos and despair, his favorite weapons.
- Or a set of hearings about how Trump has so badly handled the pandemic, so everyone will understand in grisly detail how he has wrecked this country by his inability to manage? Backing it with an on-going social media campaign.
Trump certainly knows how to divert peoples’ attention, gets them mad. He’s certainly done this with his Roger Stone commutation. It’s time for the Democrats to learn to do the same using truth, not lies. They can walk and chew gum by starting some of the projects I’ve suggested, as well as pulling out all stops and working damn hard to win the election.
Otherwise, the next big thing will happen when Trump again does something outrageous and, once again, we will wring our hands and see more of the type of helpless responses I have cited at the beginning of this piece.