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

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States welcomed what it said was constructive rhetoric from Iran Friday, following a report that its leaders want a swift deal on their nuclear program to end crippling sanctions.

But the White House stressed that despite signs of a rare opening between the two enemies, it needed to see concrete action to prove Iran was prepared to engage.

“We’ve seen a number of comments over the last several weeks from the Iranian regime,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Air Force One, when asked about the reports.

“We welcome those comments as they do indicate a willingness to act constructively, to work constructively with the international community.”

“But the fact of the matter is, actions are what are going to be determinative here.”

The New York Times reported earlier that Iranian leaders had been encouraged by a letter from President Barack Obama to new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani which they believed demonstrated flexibility.

The paper attributed its insight into the inner thoughts of the difficult-to-penetrate clerical regime to a Iranian political expert, Amir Mohebbian, who it said was a long-time advisor to the leadership in Tehran.

Mohebbian said that Iran wanted to get quick relief from sanctions which have isolated it from the international banking system and may be willing to limit its uranium enrichment program, the report said.

The Times said Iran’s leadership had tired of laborious talks with key world powers over the nuclear program and was encouraged by Obama’s offer of face-to-face talks with Iranian officials.

The latest sign that Iran believes a deal is possible to end the nuclear showdown follows a charm offensive from Tehran following the election of Rowhani in June on a platform of easing Tehran’s poor relations with the outside world and sanctions which have crippled its economy.

Speculation is rising that Obama and Rowhani could engineer a chance to meet at the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.

Earnest on Friday repeated the frequently stated U.S. line that Washington was prepared to hold talks with Iran based on “mutual respect.”

Earnest also claimed credit for the Obama administration’s policy of imposing tough sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, which he said was responsible for the change of tone from Tehran.

“These sanctions have tightened around the Iranian regime, further isolated them from the international community, taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table,” he said.

Iran denies Western charges that its nuclear program is geared towards producing weapons.

The United States and Israel have warned that they are prepared to use military force if diplomacy cannot ease the crisis.

Photo Credit: AFP/Behrouz Mehri

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.]