Patterico's Pontifications

6/4/2018

Pity Us: One of These People Is Going to Be California’s Next Governor

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:08 pm

[guest post by JVW]

We Californians go to the polls tomorrow for our primaries. You out-of-staters may recall that a few years back we voted to go to a “jungle primary” (officially known as the “top-two system”) in the Golden State, where all candidates appear on a single ballot irrespective of party affiliation and where the top two finishers advance to the November election. This is the system that gave us the 2016 Senate election of Democrat Kamala Harris versus Democrat Loretta Sanchez. This year will likely see another November choice between two Democrats, with incumbent Dianne Feinstein squared off against hard-left challenger Kevin de Leon. But the real action this year is in the race for governor: a spate of Democrat leftists of various flavors, with an open question as to whether a Republican can sneak into the top two in a divided electorate. Here are the key players:

Gavin Newsom – D, current Lieutenant Governor
Newsom has been leading the polls most of the way and is generally considered to be a shoo-in to make the top two runoff. As such, I am going to keep my powder dry for the time being. Rest assured I will have a great deal to say about this particular candidate as the November election draws closer. In the meantime, just take a look at this pretty boy and ask yourself: If you are casting Gavin Newsom in a movie would you cast him as the crusading hero out to save the day, or the sneaky, slimy villain who hides his evil beneath a layer of smarmy charm? I know which one I would pick.

Would you buy a used agenda from this man?

Would you buy a used agenda from this man?

Antonio Villaraigosa – D, former Assembly Speaker, former Mayor of Los Angeles
Most of us can remember the early days of his first term as mayor back in 2005 when Villaraigosa was considered a rising star among Democrats, a party depressed and leaderless nationally after having lost to George W. Bush in the 2004 election. The thought at one time was that the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in modern times would easily win re-election as mayor in 2009, then parlay that success into winning the governorship in 2010. Come 2016, the thinking of the time went, he would be a successful second-term governor and a serious candidate for President to succeed Barack Obama — the first African-American President being followed by the first Mexican-American President. But oh my how reality had an ugly way of intervening. By the time he ran for reelection four years later, the good progressives at Los Angeles Magazine were describing his first term as a failure. It turns out that Villaraigosa’s charm and energy served to mask the fact that he was almost congenitally incapable of focusing on a task long enough to see it all the way through (he was often mocked as the ADHD mayor); he liked cutting ceremonial ribbons and making grandiloquent cheerleading speeches a whole hell of a lot more than he cared for the nuts and bolts of running a city government. Although he won reelection, his political momentum came to a dead halt and he was shoved to the sidelines as Jerry Brown took control of the state party.

Once derided for being an insatiable ladder-climber who prioritized positioning himself to grasp the next rung rather than focusing on the job at hand, Villaraigosa used his five years in the wilderness since leaving City Hall in 2013 to reposition himself as the sensible Democrat, much in the mold of Jerry Brown. While California Democrats fall all over themselves to endorse the idea of single payer healthcare (which they deceptively like to call “Medicare for All”), Villaraigosa is the one reminding progressives that it is an unbelievably expensive proposition, and that spending on healthcare may crowd out other progressive priorities such as education, green energy, and shoring up pensions. He may end up being the man who has been left behind by his party, though if he survives the primary tomorrow he is frankly the best option for keeping Newsom out of the governor’s office.

John Chiang – D, current California State Treasurer, former California State Comptroller
Chiang is the most puzzling of the candidates in the race. Once a green-eyeshade numbers-please frankly boring type of political accountant, he has suddenly made a hard-left turn and is trying to compete on Newsom’s turf for the adulation of the progressive crowd. The man who as comptroller once warned the state about the exploding costs of state employee’s health care obligations is now a proponent of single-payer, though he acknowledges that he has yet to see a rational idea for how to fund it. A guy who spent the Schwarzenegger and Brown years earnestly trying to keep the income equal to the outflow now seems to think we can jack up spending on education, health, all while protecting the golden handshake of public pensions. This will be accomplished by enacting “sensible reforms,” as if there has always been an easy and painless common-sense solution that we are overlooking. Honestly, I don’t believe I have ever seen a politician — what’s the voguish word to use? oh yes — “evolve” so much on a fundamental issue since Arnie decided that bond money was a gift to ourselves from the future” or whatever nonsensical phrase he used. Chiang deserves to finish well in the back of the pack.

Delaine Eastin – D, former California Superintendent of Public Education
She left this office in 2003, and Lord knows what she has done for the last 15 years. Her campaign is a hodgepodge of ideas from the Bernie Sanders playbook for how California can tax and spend itself into oblivion even faster under her than under Newson or Chiang. The less said about this obvious lunatic the better. She’s currently polling about as well as Samantha Bee is in the Kushner residence.

John Cox – R, businessman and broadcaster
A failed candidate for office in Illinois who relocated to Rancho Santa Fe and is now trying his luck in the Golden State. Endorsed by President Trump, Cox is fighting with Villaraigosa for the second spot in the November election. He has an agenda that seems almost certain to me to be a loser in the general election — imagine Bill Simon or Meg Whitman running as a America First populist in deep blue California. Heaven knows that California is overdue for a populist revolt against the Hollywood-Silicon Valley-San Francisco-Public Employee-Green five-headed hydra that is running the state, but I’m just not sure that Cox is the most credible of candidates for the task.

Travis Allen – R, State Assemblyman
Probably has the most principled conservative campaign of any candidate, but of course these days in California that will get you absolutely nowhere, kind of like being the most progressive politician in Wyoming. If Trump were to appoint a Californian to serve in his administration, he could do a lot worse than Allen, though I suppose Cox is probably more to his liking, being a fellow ex-Democrat and all.

—-

As I mentioned earlier, the race appears to be between Villaraigosa and Cox to see who will go up against Newsom in the fall. As has been discussed on this blog many times before, the [William F.] Buckley Rule states that one should vote for the most conservative candidate who stands a legitimate chance of winning. There might be a clever argument to be made that Cox could pull off an amazing shocker against Newsom and win on a forgotten man populist surge, but I think the more likely scenario in a state where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over three million votes is that Newsom beats Cox by about the same 60% to 40% margin that Brown bested Neel Kashkari by four years ago. Villaraigosa on the other hand could unite the final few remaining relatively-sane Democrats with some Republicans scared to death of what Newsom has in store, and make a race of it. In addition, a Newsom-Villaraigosa race might end up exposing and deepening some of the fissures that exist in the state’s Democrat party: Northern California vs. Southern California, entitled white males vs. scrappy minorities, progressives vs. pragmatists, and other interesting possibilities. I still haven’t yet figured out how I am going to mark my ballot.

– JVW

A short explanation for my absence from Patterico’s [Guest Post by Dana]

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:17 pm

[Guest post by Dana]

This is just an update for those who have asked where I’ve disappeared to. I’m currently facing some physical limitations that make posting a no-go at this time. I am hopeful that I will be able to return to posting sooner rather than later. (Of course with the high-quality, insightful posts from our host, me talking about posting is rather silly.) For now, though, I am focusing my energies on getting better. It is a non-life threatening matter, and pales in comparison to what some commenters are enduring. But it is what’s on my plate now, and something that must be addressed. Recently a friend sent me a beautiful handcrafted card with a reminder that I am living by these days: “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

So, onward and upward I go.

— Dana

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Could Trump Be Prosecuted for Shooting James Comey While Still in Office?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:00 am

Rudy Giuliani says no:

Candidate Donald Trump bragged that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, and now President Donald Trump’s lawyer says Trump could shoot the FBI director in the Oval Office and still not be prosecuted for it.

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost Sunday, claiming a president’s constitutional powers are that broad. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.”

Giuliani said impeachment was the initial remedy for a president’s illegal behavior ― even in the extreme hypothetical case of Trump having shot former FBI Director James Comey to end the Russia investigation rather than just firing him.

“If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day,” Giuliani said. “Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”

First of all, the assumption that Trump would automatically be impeached if he were guilty of an act is not immediately obvious. The tendency of Trump’s supporters when he does something wrong is to rally around him, rather than impose consequences on him. Every criminal defendant has a defense, and sufficiently motivated people can be convinced to accept any defense. If O.J. Simpson taught us anything, it is that no amount of evidence and logic can overcome the mixture of identity politics and fame. Inject politics into the mix and the brew is even more potent.

Are we to assume that the right half of the party would suddenly abandon its habit of defending Trump on literally any point, no matter how flimsy, simply because he committed a murder? Keep in mind: Democrats and Big Media would almost certainly be saying that he committed the crime, and that he should be removed from office. That alone would be enough to trigger reflexive disagreement in the lizard brains of many partisans — disagreement that literally no amount or quality of evidence could overcome. I can hear, in my mind, the rationalizations of the partisans even now: “Didn’t Obama drone U.S. citizens? What president hasn’t murdered people? This is just the left’s way of undoing an election!” These partisans vote, and if the polls showed lawmakers that removal was not a solid plus, getting the necessary numbers in the Senate for removal might not be certain.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment and look at the most relevant precedent we have: Clinton v. Jones. Several passages in that decision suggest that the Supreme Court would not hold Trump above the law for a personal act (and possibly even for an official act, if one can imagine such a thing) of shooting James Comey. Here are two passages that suggest that prosecution for a personal act would almost certainly be permitted:

With respect to acts taken in his “public character”– that is official acts–the President may be disciplined principally by impeachment, not by private lawsuits for damages. But he is otherwise subject to the laws for his purely private acts.

. . . .

Whatever the outcome of this case, there is no possibility that the decision will curtail the scope of the official powers of the Executive Branch. The litigation of questions that relate entirely to the unofficial conduct of the individual who happens to be the President poses no perceptible risk of misallocation of either judicial power or executive power.

It would be incorrect to read this language, however, as clearly stating that Trump is beyond the reach of the courts in all cases where he takes official action. In other words, could Trump order the federal government to drone James Comey, and take refuge in the notion that this was an official act that removes him from the judgment of the courts? I doubt it. As Justice Stevens explained — speaking for a unanimous court, the courts have often made determinations regarding the president’s official actions as well:

First, we have long held that when the President takes official action, the Court has the authority to determine whether he has acted within the law….Second, it is also settled that the President is subject to judicial process in appropriate circumstances….Sitting Presidents have responded to court orders to provide testimony and other information with sufficient frequency that such interactions between the Judicial and Executive Branches can scarcely be thought a novelty….If the Judiciary may severely burden the Executive Branch by reviewing the legality of the President’s official conduct, and if it may direct appropriate process to the President himself, it must follow that the federal courts have power to determine the legality of his unofficial conduct. The burden on the President’s time and energy that is a mere by product of such review surely cannot be considered as onerous as the direct burden imposed by judicial review and the occasional invalidation of his official actions.

In the context of Clinton v. Jones, which was a private matter, Justice Stevens was making the point that if the judiciary can decide official questions in many cases, it can certainly decide unofficial ones.

Keep in mind: governors have been indicted by state prosecutors (Rick Perry being a glaring and absurd example) and I am not familiar with any decision that says this cannot happen on state constitutional grounds of separation of powers.

This is not to say that Giuliani’s argument is insane. Some agree that a president cannot be criminally prosecuted. For a law student’s detailed argument to that effect, see here. The arguments include the notion that the President is different, since he, as one person, embodies an entire article in the Constitution. Vincent Bugliosi made a similar argument in his book No Island of Sanity.

But the Supreme Court had a different view, and the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in our system. And based on its decision in Clinton v. Jones, I suspect they would allow a prosecution even before an impeachment.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


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