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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

On a sweltering, Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party Patriots organization assembled a lineup consisting of, among others, two presidential candidates, a former CIA director, and the woman who quit her job as governor of Alaska, to sound the clarion call to Congress, American citizens, and the president: The Iran nuclear deal is very, very bad.

Since the deal is basically a fait accompli — with a cloture-proof Senate minority supporting it — the event was more of a pageant of bombast than of sober address, and the oratory was nothing short of apocalyptic.

The crowd of supporters held signs proclaiming “#JewishLivesMatter;” accusing President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton of “fulfilling Hitler’s dreams;” calling Republican majority leaders in Congress John Boehner and Mitch McConnell “repugnicant [sic] traitors.”

The headlining acts — Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin — were preceded by a parade of speakers who invoked the Biblical rhetoric of the Gospels, skeletons in Obama’s closet like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and the tired historical comparison of Neville Chamberlain. Obama’s actions, it was said, “bordered on treason.”

Ted Cruz’s reiterated his pledge to “rip to shreds this catastrophic deal,” which he called “the single greatest national security threat facing America.”

“If it goes through,” Cruz warned, “the Obama administration will become quite literally the world’s leading sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism.”

He mourned the demise of “Scoop Jackson” Democrats — among whom he counted John F. Kennedy and Joe Lieberman — who stood firm on defense, he said, not on party lines. “Do you value the safety and security of the United States of America?” he rhetorically asked Senate Democrats. “Or do you value more party loyalty to the Obama White House?”

Cruz concluded by calling the president “lawless” and warning any banks that lifted restrictions on frozen Iranian assets that they would face civil liabilities and a reckoning from the next president “who is not named Barack Obama.”

Despite the hyperbole, Cruz’s speech was a dry and wonkish drone-fest compared to that of Donald Trump, whom Cruz introduced as “my friend.”

The tow-headed mogul took the stage to the soaring chorus of R.E.M’s eschatological Reagan-era ballad “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” (The notoriously liberal alt-rock act, which disbanded in 2011, has had to deal with conservatives using their music before.)

Trump declared that he need not go into the messy details of the deal, since Cruz and others had covered that, and also since messy details are anathema to Trump — he’s a doer, not a talker. Trump’s speech, as has become expected, was big on bombastic, full-throated, but vague, promises, and low on actual data, tactile proposals, and vocabulary.

“I’ve been doing deals for a long time, lots of wonderful deals, great deals. That’s what I do. Never ever, ever, ever in my life have I seen a transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran. And I mean never,” he said.

He swore that, if he were elected, the four American prisoners currently in Iran would be back home “before I ever take office. I guarantee that.” Though he did not explain how he intended to do that, eliding over the details, as is his familiar tactic.

“They will be back before I ever take office — because they know that’s what has to happen. Okay? They know it. And if they don’t know it, I’m telling them right now.”

Inexplicable victories would become the norm under President Trump, he said, in fact: “We will have so much winning when I get elected that you may get bored with winning.”

Finally, Sarah Palin entered, proclaiming, “Let’s bring some sanity to this discussion!”

Though nominally there to protest the deal with Iran, Palin took the opportunity to catalog a host of conservative grievances with Obama, including his use of a selfie stick and his signing off on the recent restoration of the traditional name “Denali” to Alaska’s tallest peak. (Note that when Palin quit her job as Alaska’s governor six years ago, she also referred to the mountain as “Denali.”)

She began with a thinly veiled accusation that the president was guilty of goading violence against police officers: “Since our president won’t say it, since he still hasn’t called off the dogs, we’ll say it. Police officers and first responders all across this great land, we [sic] got your back. We salute you! Thank you, police officers.”

“It’s up to us to tell the enemy: ‘We win, you lose.’ Just like Ronald Reagan would have told them,” she said, alluding to the late Republican president who actually sold weapons to Iran.

“Only in an Orwellian Obama-world full of sprinkly fairy dust, blown from atop his unicorn as he’s peeking through a really pretty pink kaleidoscope would he ever see victory or safety for America or Israel in this treaty,” she declared.

Well said, governor.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]