The Cleveland Debate

Two shot - Debate 9/29/20

One candidate came to debate. The other came to disrupt.

I don’t have much interest in political labels: to me, they are points of the political compass and that’s about all. And although I do claim a political party, I don’t have any official role with that party. The parties have become political tribes.

The debate didn’t provide voters with information about issues: the positions of the candidates are not one iota clearer today than they were before the debate.

What the debate did do is to provide voters with a clear view of the characters of the candidates. One candidate displayed a pathological lack of self-control. He victimized the other candidate, the moderator, and the viewers by refusing to participate in dialogue: by introducing irrelevant topics, by interrupting, and by refusing to follow norms of conversation, he thwarted any real exchange of information and examination of positions.

There may be voters who view the President’s tactics as effective verbal aggression. Many of them regard this verbal cage match as terrific TV, great political blood sport. I’m not one of them.

I’ve debated. It’s tough. You need to exercise your intellect and control your emotions. If you have a weakness, debate will exposes it. And this one exposed the weaknesses of both candidates. The American people can now decide which set of weaknesses is more important.

Joe Biden had a hard time dealing with the constant interruptions: so would most of us. With the constant flurries of unsupported allegations, irrelevant points, and personal attacks, there were times when I thought he should have said something different. But I wasn’t there, and it’s easy for an observer to think of things the participant should have done.

Meanwhile, #45 revealed something much more dangerous: an utter lack of self-control.

I am not saying that #45’s behavior was immoral, or unkind, or impolite. I am saying that it was dangerous.

Leadership demands self-control. Without it, leadership is reduced to pandering, preening, or bullying. The President’s blustering and jabbering last night reflects much more than a tactic or a personality trait: it’s a character flaw, and it’s far more dangerous than Biden’s difficulty in managing it.

The guy who couldn’t shut up, concentrate, and formulate a coherent response to his opponent–what debaters do all the time–is the same guy we send to meet with world leaders, to control our nuclear weapons, to command our military, and to administer the government.

The most important learning, thanks to last night’s debate: we know now that the leader of the free world can’t even lead himself.

An Acquitted Crook Is Still a Crook.

I wrote the following article in February 2020; obviously, it was much more timely then. I delayed posting while I proofread, and as the weeks went by I thought about let it join my many pages of unposted posts. But more recently (as you’ll read in subsequent posts), I have become convinced of the importance of recording my thoughts in these turbulent times. So, timely or not, here’s what I wrote last winter about the impeachment process. I still think I was right.

Some musings about the impeachment and trial process.

First: It’s pretty clear that the conduct of POTUS 45 was corrupt. County commissioners, corporate buyers, and school district business managers have gone to jail for soliciting favors, and the forced investigation of a political rival is a favor. If the House–the only body that could bring charges–had failed to take action, every President in the future could do the same thing with impunity. Even if the Senate failed to do its job, at least the House did.

Second: The objections don’t hold water.

  • “The House shouldn’t have impeached, because they knew the Senate wouldn’t convict.” It was clear from the outset that the Senate wouldn’t convict: the President’s party’s leader in the Senate said so. Some argue that under those circumstances, the House shouldn’t have bothered to bring charges. But the Constitution doesn’t suggest that the House should impeach only when conviction in the Senate is likely. The House’s responsibility is their responsibility, regardless of the probability of success.
  • “House Democrats were seeking to reverse the decision the American people made in 2016.” Nonsense: a year with Mike Pence as President would hardly have been a reversal of 2016. An ancillary charge is that this was the gleeful fulfillment of Democrats’ long-range plan to impeach this President. It’s been pretty clear that Nancy Pelosi resisted pressure to impeach until this latest malfeasance came to light.
  • “This action should not have been brought this close to the election.” The Constitution doesn’t set a deadline after which the President gets a pass.
  • “The Democrats rushed to judgment and should have waited to bring better charges.” The worst thing about this argument is its cynicism. The House cannot simultaneously have impeached POTUS 45 too early and too late. If the House had waited, subpoenaed witnesses, and brought charges a month, or two, or three, later, Senate Republicans would have criticized them for the delay because the trial would have been even closer to the election.
  • “This will work to the political advantage of the Republicans.” Maybe so: I see that Trump’s popularity, especially within his own party, is higher than ever. Everybody likes a winner. But again, the Constitution doesn’t say that legislators should do their job only when it will work to their advantage.

Finally: Now the American people get to decide who gets rewarded and who gets punished. And we, our children, and their children will live with the consequences.

OEA’s RA: Questions about Proposal 1

If you’ve read my last post, “OEA’s RA: A Contrarian Considers,” then you know that I think we needed to do a better job of deliberating about the issues at OEA’s virtual Representative Assembly on Saturday. Today I want to explain why I expect to vote against Proposal 1 when the mail ballots come out.

It’s not my preference to debate issues on the Internet. As a parliamentarian, I have great respect for the deliberative process, and as an OEA veteran, I have enormous respect for the Representative Assembly as a deliberative body. The problem is that none of us availed ourselves of its potential last weekend.

Four bylaw amendments had been proposed. All of them were accompanied by printed rationales. Three of those rationales actually provided a case for the proposals; but the rationale provided for Proposal 1 was simply an acknowledgment that it had been submitted by petition.

Proposal 1 received no testimony of any kind, pro or con. It’s the responsibility of the proponents to make their case. They didn’t, so this item should be voted down; it can always be considered at a future RA when they have their act together.

Meanwhile, let me provide an explanation of why I think Proposal 1 may be a bad idea anyway.

OEA has eight standing committees. Committees sometimes get a bad rap, but over the years, I have served on three of OEA’s committees, and I have observed that they operate pretty well when members energize them. Run well or not, they are part of a complicated system that provides for governance ownership of OEA policy. (Having served OEA and its affiliates both as an elected official and an employee, I believe that governance ownership is critical to OEA’s longtime health.)

Each committee has positions for sixteen members apportioned among the ten Ohio district associations according to membership. Nine caucuses–affiliated organizations or interest groups–presently have the ability to name additional members. So presently the potential size of each committee, not counting Board and Staff Liaisons, is 25.

Proposal 1 would increase the caucus representatives by three: one for BATS, one for the Hispanic Caucus, and one for the Rural Caucus. Committees would now have a potential of 28 members. Districts would keep sixteen, and caucuses would have twelve.

I am a big believer in caucuses: I maintain memberships in several, and I support their work. But I am a bigger believer in Ohio’s ten district associations. Every active member belongs to one and only one district association. They operate democratically; they have diverse memberships; and their appointees to OEA committees represent more or less the same number of members.

  • How large are the three groups that seek representation on OEA committees?
  • Is there a reason why they can’t serve as district representatives?
  • Should the chairs of interest groups be able to name their representatives on their own?
  • How many is the right number of members on a committee?
  • What should be the balance between district and special-interest representatives?

Normally, questions like these would have been asked and answered as each of the four bylaws proposals was considered by ten districts RAs. But we didn’t have those this time.

Nobody prevented me from asking these questions at last week’s RA; I have only myself to blame that I didn’t. But supporters of Proposal 1 had a responsibility to make their case, and they didn’t.

This time, at least, I must oppose Proposal 1.