Category Archives: Michael Bryan

Governor Ducey Re-Election in Deep Trouble

By Michael Bryan

New statewide polling from Lake Research Partners indicates possible trouble for Doug Ducey’s bid for re-election. I don’t have access to the raw polling data (though I would love to look…), so I can’t speak too much about the poll’s methodology, but some of the results have frankly surprised me. I do know that it seems to be appropriately weighted, included cell phones, and has a sample size of 600 respondents. Not bad.

Bottom line: Ducey is topping out a 40% against a generic Democratic opponent with a whopping 28% undecided, i.e. persuadable. 53% rate Ducey’s performance as merely fair or poor: and he only scores 49% good or excellent among GOP voters! His job performance in almost every other subject is also underwater, even traditional GOP strong subjects such as “keeping spending down” (I guess that is no longer a GOP value, actually, given national trends…):

Ducey will definitely face a real fight this season. That is likely the reason the Republican Governor’s Association is spending early and exclusively in Arizona (subscription link) to shore up a weakened Ducey.

So, bottom line: start investing in your favored Democratic candidate for Governor because the race is on, and Ducey is still crushing it comparatively in fund-raising. Check out our Democratic candidates Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer, and David Garcia.

You can read the full report here: PublicMemo.DuceyAccountability.firev1.0208181

Ruben Gallego (AZ-CD07) Calls a Psychopath a Psychopath

By Michael Bryan

I appreciate a plain-spoken politician. Congressman Ruben Gallego couldn’t be more plain-spoken when it comes to President Cheeto.

Yesterday, Gallego tweeted:

That tweet was in response to Trump’s tweet claiming that there was a causal connection between the RussiaGate investigation and the FBI’s failure to forestall the latest Florida school shooting.

I say, “Thank You!” to Congressman Gallego for telling the simple truth in public: Trump is sick in the head.

If you appreciate such honesty let Congressman Gallego know in the language that Congresscritters best appreciate: cold hard cash. Add a penny to your donation so that he will know that you are giving him a penny for his honest thoughts.

 

The Trump Black(mail) House

By Michael Bryan

If Donald Trump is not someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia, he sure acts remarkably like someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia.

We know that Russia is a notoriously good blackmailer: their kompromat systems are finely tuned and effective. To successfully blackmail people two things are needed; a reason to blackmail someone (something you want them to do) and information with which to blackmail them (usually a financial or sexual impropriety).

Consider the case of Russia vis-a-vis Donald Trump — as President, Trump has many things Russia would want: control of the American foreign policy and national security apparatus chief among them. Russia is rumored to have information of a sexually compromising nature about Trump (see the Steele Dossier re the so-called “pee pee tape”), but much more damaging, I think, they are in a position to have a great deal of compromising financial information on Trump. The Trumps have admitted that they have gotten a great deal of funding for their projects from Russia over the past decade. Trump is notoriously lax about due diligence in his foreign deals and the Russians and others have likely used the Trump organization to launder money on a massive scale. They also are very likely to have access to financial statements and tax records that could be embarrassing to Trump by virtue of their influence over Trump partners in the former Soviet bloc.

So, Russia clearly has motive and means to blackmail Trump. Is there evidence in Trump’s behavior that he is actively being compromised by blackmail?

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General Kelly’s Willful Ignorance is a Product of Military Culture

By Michael Bryan

People are shocked that Gen. Kelly demonstrably knew that the President’s Staff Secretary, Rob Porter, could not obtain a permanent clearance due to domestic abuse allegations, and yet kept him in a position which required him to handle Top Secret and above materials.

I am not.

As a former prosecutor who has handled hundreds of domestic violence allegations, I handled several dozens of charges against male members of the armed forces. Invariably, if the accused was an officer, the member’s commander reached out to me to inform me of what a fine officer and national security asset the accused was. Rarely did they ask me directly to drop the charges, but they almost always served as character witnesses for the accused. Invariably, I would be informed of the damage that would be done to national security, and the waste of the expensive specialized training the taxpayers had invested in the officer, should he be convicted and be unable to continue his military career. The formal zero-tolerance of domestic violence had led to an informal culture of always believing the best of the man.

I’m sure there exists no formal policy of disbelieving domestic abuse charges against members, but what I observed was a definite culture of men covering for men in the military. Perhaps it was all rationalized as force protection: keeping vital national security assets at the work on behalf of the nation. But the result was a steady pressure to exempt military officers from the consequences of their crimes against women.

Having seen, first-hand, how the military’s culture handles allegations of domestic violence against those whom they consider mission-critical personnel, I am not at all surprised that General Kelly gave Rob Porter the benefit of every possible doubt to keep him at his post.

I have little doubt that the military culture General Kelly marinated in his whole career influence his thinking in his new role. The key difference in his new context is that General Kelly was now confronted with an FBI background report refusing to grant Porter clearance due to credible allegations of abuse. Allegations of domestic abuse arising in such an inquiry are made under the threat of federal felony criminal charges if the women are lying to FBI investigators. That is not “he said, she said”: that is “she said in peril of felony charges, he said without consequences.”

The question in my mind is not “did General Kelly protect Rob Porter from the consequences of his crimes against women,” but “how often has he done so in the past?” To the investigative reporters of the nation I say, look into General Kelly’s command history: I guarantee you this is not the first time he has willfully disbelieved women about the violence of men in his command.

Update: I was just proven correct about this prediction.

McSally’s Holding Pattern

By Michael Bryan

Arizona has become one of the few states that are key to control of the U.S. Senate in 2018. With Flake declining to run for re-election and McCain facing the end of his life, both of Arizona’s Senate seats are in flux at a time when electoral tides are strongly disadvantaging Republicans. When McCain inevitably lays down his duties and resigns, one would expect there will be a wide field of both Democratic and Republican candidates vying for Arizona’s two open Senate seats.

One of the most salient players in this drama has remained purposefully and stubbornly obscure as to her next moves, however: Representative Martha McSally. While it is widely known that her ambition, and her current intention, is to move up to the Senate, she has remained stubbornly non-committal regarding launching a campaign for Flake’s seat in 2018.

She is certain to run for Senate; she has already recruited (and McSally’s political shop is running the nascent campaign of) Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Lea Márquez-Peterson to try to succeed her. Since it seems certain that she plans on departing her current office for the Senate, but is passing up weeks of fund-raising and earned media in a primary against her main rival for the nomination for Flake’s seat, Kelli Ward, what could explain her current passivity?

McSally simply doesn’t plan to enter the primary for Flake’s seat. She expects to take over McCain’s seat, likely well before the primary election next year — probably before the end of this year.

Appointment to replace McCain provides several advantages to McSally. She would likely quash any primary challenge merely by occupying the seat, especially if she is perceived as McCain’s own choice to replace him. Even if she does not quash all opposition, incumbency conveys powerful advantages against both primary and general election challengers. Appointment to McCain’s seat also avoids an unpleasant primary contest with Ward, which would serve to further irritate the far-right Trumpian faction of Arizona’s Republicans, whom McSally has already irritated more than once.

Governor Ducey, likely with the knowledge and blessing of McCain, must be planning to appoint McSally to fill McCain’s seat when he resigns due to his failing health. It is unlikely that McSally would sit on the sidelines like this if she did not have assurances that the appointment to McCain’s seat was hers.

So, I make a few predictions:

  1. McCain will announce his immediate resignation from the Senate before or at the end of this session of the Senate on December 29, 2017.
  2. McCain will make it known that McSally has his support to be appointed to his seat.
  3. Ducey will appoint McSally to McCain’s seat.
  4. McSally will run for the remainder of McCain’s term in the 2018 election substantially or completely unopposed in the Republican primary.

Pandora’s Drone

By Michael Bryan

Note: This is a think piece that has been languishing in my drafts for some time. I am publishing now in order to see what, if any, feedback readers may have, not in response to any current events, although it does briefly touch upon the terrorist attack in Charlottesville in my last revision.

In a complete reversal of American norms before 2001, Americans have come to expect that our foreign, sub-state political foes will be dealt with by assassination. That might seem a shocking assertion, but the policy of targeted killings of those identified as enemies of the United States by drone can only be euphemized, not denied. Bush and Obama placed such assassinations at the heart of our military strategy against those groups and individuals seen as a terrorist threat to America, and regardless of who the President might be, that tool will not be disposed of unless its use is wholly rejected by Americans. Given that no great outcry or mass movement has yet denounced the continued use of drone assassination in our foreign policy, it seems very likely to continue. In fact, Donald Trump has re-authorized the CIA to carry out its own drone strikes, lowering accountability and reporting requirements in place under Obama, when only the military was empowered to carry out lethal drone operations.

Our desire for the perception of safety and demand of bold action by our leadership against possible terrorist threats has swamped any scruple we may once have held against merely murdering our geo-strategic enemies. We have always killed in war, but killing specific people, and all persons believed to be members of designated organizations, anywhere they may found, even in countries we are not hostile to, is a new thing entirely. But no modern politician will run the risk of being accused of not having done everything possible when the next mass casualty attack on American soil comes, as it inevitably will, therefore a tactic that began as an expedient use of a new technology in a crisis seems to have become the centerpiece our de facto anti-terrorism strategy.

Americans seem to have decided that extra-judicial state murder, even of some American citizens, is justified in our fight against terrorism. Despite the fig-leaf of “due process” of review within the executive branch that was constructed around the practice by the Obama administration, targeted drone strikes and so-called signature strikes on suspected terrorist activity are extra-judicial executions, pure and simple. We may hide behind the fiction that we are “at war” with some ill-defined terrorist organizations and thus those killed are “enemy combatants,” and any innocents killed as a result are unfortunate “collateral damage”, but this only semantics. Since we are not going invade Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, or Syria, or (re-re-re-invade?) Iraq, or any of the other failing or weak states where terrorist cells might find sanctuary, in order to end the threat of these sub-state organizations pose to our security, we are going to continue to fight these “wars” with proxies, intelligence assets, and drone strikes. We will continue to make targeted killings, i.e. murder, a key component of our foreign policy.

My point is not to suggest an alternative, or even to suggest that the policy is necessarily wrong or immoral. There may be no more effective, more politically acceptable, or more morally inoffensive alternative. My point is to question what effect this will have on the evolution American political culture, and on the normative behavior of governments visa-vis their own citizens – including our own toward us.

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