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VALYO: What We Learned in 2022

2022 will be a year remembered for many things in Pennsylvania – the Phillies made an unlikely run to the World Series, the Eagles look ready to return to the Super Bowl, and voters in Pennsylvania bucked a century of political election trends to reject extremism in a historic way.

All of these achievements embody the spirit of Pennsylvania – we are a commonwealth of honest, passionate, hard-working people. We don’t have any unreasonable or lofty expectations of our elected officials, but we do expect that they too will be honest, hard-working, passionate advocates for us and put the needs of Pennsylvanians over partisan political interests.

My most important learning in 2022 is that this is still true, and that a commitment to truth, civility, and reason remains deeply embedded in Chester County and across the commonwealth. People in Pennsylvania were presented with two very different paths in the election this year. One was a path paved with hate, extremism and conspiratorial lies, and the other was paved with hope, vision, and leadership.

The message sent by voters was clear and one better heeded by Republicans across Pennsylvania, than by me. For the sake of our democracy, I hope that my Republican friends also see the lesson here and recognize that it is time to turn the page on the era of Trump and Trumpian impersonators, but early signs in Harrisburg aren’t promising.

I hope they see the lesson that Josh Shapiro, running on a message of bipartisanship and working for all Pennsylvanians, wins elections in a landslide. I hope they see the lesson that John Fetterman, running on a message of authenticity and honesty, was able to overcome horrible personal attacks to flip the 51st Senate seat to the Democrats.

And most of all, I hope they see the lesson that spending time attacking abortion rights, LGBTQ+ children, and our democratic process is not what the people want, but helped flip the State House to the Democrats for the first time in over a decade. The last few years were incredibly difficult for many people and 2022 was no exception. But Pennsylvanians have spoken decisively and I am excited for what lies ahead. Let’s all take the lessons that we were given and work together to make 2023 a fantastic year for Pennsylvania and the entire country.

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BROOKS: Wild’s Speech Is an Unprecedented Attack on a Scholar

From Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society speech, notable leaders have employed university podiums to communicate ideas, to inspire or to warn us. Most use the opportunity to encourage a society falling on hard times, while some of our current leaders are instead failing in hard times.

On May 15, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild delivered the George Washington Law School’s 2022 commencement.  She chose this moment to attack a one of the prestigious school’s renowned professors. Though Wild did not state his name, anyone who follows Beltway legal matters knew she was referring to Professor Jonathan Turley. Wild conceded Turley “is without question well versed in constitutional law”. She then claimed that Turley had taken to “cable news and social media . . . [,] undermining his own past well-documented scholarship”.

What triggered her ire? Turley, a recognized authority on impeachment law, testified at both Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearing (1998) and Donald Trump’s (2019), and Wild found displeasure in Turley’s legal interpretations.

Dipping her toes into the cesspool of the partisan hatedom without diving in head-first, Wild claimed: “A law professor who at one time strenuously advocated that a president need not commit an indictable offense to be impeached, just this past year argued the opposite for a president more to his liking. A president no less who instigated an insurrection and a bloody assault on our democratic process and the rule of law.”

According to Turley’s Trump impeachment hearings testimony, not only did the professor vote for Presidents Clinton and Obama; he also voted against Trump in 2016 and has been publicly critical of Trump’s “policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns.”

As Turley put it, “one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president. To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump.” Turley continued, “We have never impeached a president solely or even largely on the basis of a non-criminal abuse of power allegation.”

The important point that Wild’s rationale seems to exclude is that Bill Clinton committed perjury, a felony. As articles for the Clinton  impeachment state, our 42nd president “willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury.” Sex was the cause for Clinton to lie but was not the legal grounds for impeachment.

Wild’s talk stands out for doing something other commencement speeches by governmental leaders did not. No other attacked a faculty member of the institution at which the speaker was speaking. Sure, other speakers have taken digs at other politicians. But Wild – a guest – dedicated over a minute to bashing Turley at the professor’s workplace, unduly politicizing and detracting from an otherwise inspiring speech.

Wild’s speech started in the same manner as George W. Bush’s 2001 Yale commencement speech, where he joked: “Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say well done. And, to the C students, I say, you too can be president.” Wild’s academic record at law school seems to have fit the same, as her “grades in law school were decent, but were nothing that were going to open doors for me.” Humble, and her rise despite that can be an inspiration, as could be Bush’s more self-deprecating quip.

If one juxtaposes the humanity of a speech like Bush’s to Wild’s gratuitous dig at Turley, one should see the point even more. Indeed, the more memorable commencement speeches are both uplifting and informative. Some use a sentence or two to point out a political opponent’s gaffs. But spending paragraphs to attack the intellectually defensible position of a seasoned scholar is out of bounds. As an attorney, Wild should realize that a corruption or bending of truth is hardly a desired outcome.

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WATERGATE at 50: Dirty Tricks Have Just Gotten More Sophisticated

All this week, Delaware Valley Journal will be publishing stories about the impact of Watergate on American politics and culture, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the break-in on Friday, June 17th.

 

June 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the night when D.C. police arrested five men breaking into the Watergate hotel/office/apartment complex. The burglars were operatives of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. Their mission: to tap phones and steal documents from the Democratic National Committee, which had its headquarters in the Watergate.

The operation was planned and supervised by G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent who was the general counsel of the president’s campaign. He financed the caper with campaign funds. Liddy and the burglars were criminally charged and convicted. Others who participated in the subsequent cover-up orchestrated by the White House, including John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s adviser for domestic affairs.

The investigation of the attempted Watergate break-in by a select committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina eventually led to the White House audiotapes, the infamous 18-minute gap, and House Judiciary Committee approval of three articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned August 8, 1974, to avoid a vote by the House and a potential impeachment trial in the Senate.

A month later, President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, saying his action was intended to end a “long national nightmare” and a disruptive scandal that had polarized the public. He feared that potential litigation against the former president would arouse “ugly passions” and challenge the “credibility of our free institutions of government … at home and abroad.”

So, have things gotten better since then? Liddy and his fellow co-conspirators were driven by political objectives — to find out everything they could about what the Democratic Party was doing and to get information that they could use to sabotage George McGovern’s presidential campaign. But they got caught because of their ineptness.

Compare that to what we now know happened in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign — using campaign lawyers, an opposition research firm and allies in the press — orchestrated a smear campaign against Donald Trump. The concocted hoax about his supposed collusion with the Russian government continued well into his presidency.

The Clinton campaign didn’t have to engage bumbling burglars for a risky wiretapping scheme. Instead, as the special counsel, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the John Durham investigation have revealed, they created a salacious “dossier” rife with phony claims. They also enlisted the help of a technology executive and university researchers with government cybersecurity contracts to secretly scoop up internet communications data from Trump both during the campaign and from the White House itself after he became president. The sophistication of this conspiracy makes Gordon Liddy look like an amateur.

Even the FBI got entangled in this dirty political trick, leading the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency to abuse its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on people connected to the opposition presidential campaign. This, in turn, led to the expensive, unjustified two-year investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller that baselessly hampered Trump (and his advisers) in carrying out his presidential duties.

In 1972, Nixon’s dirty trick failed, and Liddy and his co-conspirators all went to prison. The Clinton campaign’s dirty trick failed to win the election. Still, it succeeded in hobbling the Trump presidency and corrupting the Justice Department. Yet no one has gone to prison as a result of what happened in 2016. The cover-up was so successful that we didn’t even know about the illegal spying and politicization of Justice until well after it occurred and the dirty deed was done.

So, what have we learned in the 50 years since Watergate? Dirty tricksters in politics have become more adept at hiding what they are doing, abusing advances in technology to further their dishonest ends, weaponizing federal law enforcement agencies against their political opponents, and using their friends in the media to ensure they are successful.

Americans deserve better. And unfortunately, the dirty tricks in the last presidential campaign have done precisely what Gerald Ford feared: raised “ugly passions,” polarized the electorate, and damaged the “credibility of our free institutions of government … at home and abroad.”

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