It was an act of political terrorism in plain sight. Donald Trump blackmailed Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He knew and they knew that if they failed to do what was expected of them, he had the power to destroy their careers with a single tweet. They are both wealthy — among the wealthiest members of the Senate — and they could afford to ignore him and do the right thing. But you can’t put a price on power.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the target of the President’s ire after Georgians threw their electoral votes to Joe Biden, had done nothing wrong. To the contrary, Raffensperger was just doing his job, and had done it well. Perdue and Loeffler knew that, and they knew that what they were about to do could destroy his career. Indeed, it could put his life at risk. …


We are headed into a firestorm, the headline blared. Is there any reason to think otherwise? Four years ago, in his inaugural address, Donald Trump looked at the country that he had been elected to govern and saw carnage. It may have been hyperbole, but if it was not the reality of our country when he won the presidency, four years later, carnage is what he will leave us with. If we are lucky.

For four years, Trump has specialized in turning Americans against each other in all manner of ways for his own political advantage. Four years after his American Carnage address from the steps of the Capitol, the country is beset by political division, disease, racial strife, and economic collapse. Gangs armed with assault weapons freely stake out the steps of state capitols, plot to kidnap elected officials, and stalk Trump’s political opponents on the highways, doing their best Mad Max imitations from their flag-festooned pickup trucks. Except ours is not a post-apocalyptic world, but rather a pre-apocalyptic one — if the headlines are to be believed — in which each of these groups had, and continue to have, every reason to believe they are doing the President’s bidding. …


There are nine days left until Election Day. In just over one week, we will know if there is a clear winner in the presidential race. But even if Joe Biden wins, and one national nightmare comes to an end, the nation will continue to face challenges that may not be easily addressed by a change in who sits in the Oval Office.

Four years ago, it was eleven days before Election Day when Jim Comey announced the FBI’s new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, turned the presidential race on its head, and effectively put Donald Trump on a path to winning the Presidency. While some may debate whether or not Comey’s letter led to Clinton’s defeat, Donald Trump is quite certain of its impact. It is the reason he has been demanding that Attorney General William Barr or FBI Director Christopher Wray announce that they are opening an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. …


For a day or so over the weekend, Donald Trump was off Twitter, but for notes of thanks here and there. What a relief it was. The relentless pressure that Trump applied to Joe Biden and Chris Wallace at the first presidential debate last week mirrored the daily pounding the country has had to endure months on end from a President who is determined to dominate every news cycle.

His surrogates on the Sunday talk shows were subdued. Sparring with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Steve Cortes went so far as to suggest “the MAGA movement is bigger than just President Trump.” It seemed to be a ludicrous proposition, but Trump’s COVID hiatus has clearly left many of his minions reflecting on where things go from here, with the election less than a month away. …


I get it. Republicans are shameless hypocrites. A dozen or more GOP senators have done an about face, turning their back on a Merrick Garland rule they made up in the first place. The excuses were all over the map, but they needn’t have been. Over the course of the past half-century, the Republican Party has been animated by two objectives above all else: cutting taxes and appointing conservative judges. While Congressional Republicans hung their hat on “supply side” theories early on to justify their tax cuts, it did not take long before they decided that piling up debt was a price they were willing to pay — or have someone else pay — for piling up campaign cash and winning elections. Are Republican senators willing to vote to put Donald Trump’s nominee on the Supreme Court days before a presidential election, violating whatever pledges they might have made in the past that they wouldn’t? …


After her father’s diagnosis with Covid-19, Caroline Brooks vented her frustration on Twitter. “Wearing a mask is a non-partisan issue. The advice of medical experts shouldn’t be politicized. My father ignored medical expertise and now he has COVID. This has been a heartbreaking battle because I love my dad and don’t want him to die.”

Brooks was barking up the wrong tree, however. Brooks’ father, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, has been part of the problem for years now. A political fashionista of sorts, Gohmert eagerly signed onto whatever hyper-partisan, anti-establishment caucus came his way over his decade and a half in Congress. The fact that he was diagnosed with Covid-19, after months of making a show of his devotion to Donald Trump by refusing to wear a mask in the Capitol, changed nothing. …


The party conventions are over, Labor Day has arrived, and the presidential race remains pretty much as it has been for months. Joe Biden continues to hold a six to eight point lead nationally, and a similar range of leads in most of the key battleground states. Donald Trump surely hoped that Republican National Convention would spark a narrowing of the race. If the campaign’s objective was to soften his image in order to boost his support among suburban women and independents, any material impact has been short-lived.

Donald Trump is an open book, and you don’t have to read excerpts of Michael Cohen’s new book to know that Trump will do whatever it takes to remain in the White House on January 21, 2021. Continuing to incite violence in the street, pitting left against right, will no doubt remain central to his law and order campaign. Rolling out a vaccine — however preliminary the results of clinical trials might be — to an increasingly skeptical public is similarly ready to go; though that gambit may be foiled by pharmaceutical companies wary of becoming pawns to his ambition. Cohen suggested this week that he could easily imagine the President starting a war to stay in office, and current US movements in the South China Sea could be a precursor to Tonkin Gulf-type incident, mirroring LBJ’s 1964 election year ploy. …


The signs that Donald Trump’s presidency is coming to an end are all around us. Not in the outrage of parents, six months into a pandemic and still stuck with their children at home. Not in the announcement by prosecutors in Manhattan this week that they are investigating “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” Not even in the collapse among Republicans, according to Gallup this week, in satisfaction with the direction of the country, from 80% in February to 20% in July.

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No, the signs of what lies ahead in November are evident in the growing dread of the fall election among Republicans in Congress. To borrow a locution from Andrew Gillum, I’m not saying that I think Donald Trump is going to lose, I’m just saying that Trump’s most loyal supporters apparently think he’s going to lose. And this is not just about a president losing, but a political party that will soon have to confront the deep divide between its now-dominant authoritarian-populist right wing and traditional, free market Republicans who have been hiding in the shadows over the past four years. …


Almost a half-century ago, Connecticut Senator Abe Ribicoff decried police violence from the podium at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. “And with George McGovern as president of the United States, we wouldn’t have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago.”

The Gestapo tactics worked, of course; George McGovern never had a chance. Richard Nixon drove his law and order message against the backdrop of anti-war and civil rights protests across the country, and romped to an historic 520 to 17 victory in the Electoral College that year, winning the popular vote by the widest margin in history. …


Bernard Baruch, a legendary financier from the early 20th century, famously said that he knew it was time to get out of the stock market before the roaring ’20s gave way to the 1929 crash when he started getting stock tips from his cook and the boy who shined his shoes. As wing tips have given way to running shoes, we have had to look elsewhere for indicators of irrational exuberance in the equity markets. Today, we have Robinhood.

Robinhood is an Internet platform for “free” stock trading where today’s cooks and shoeshiners can play the markets. According to Robintrack.net, 40,000 Robinhood accounts added Tesla shares during a four-hour span this past Monday — a nearly unheard of level of herd activity. Perhaps those investors know something the rest of us don’t — indeed a lot of hedge funds and professional investors have lost a lot of money shorting Tesla over the past few years — or perhaps when the history is written, those frantically looking to pile into the market over the past weeks will be seen as the shoeshine boys and cooks of the Covid-19 economic collapse. …

About

David Paul

Financial advisor to city and state governments. Lifelong Red Sox fan (don't hold it against me).

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