Thursday, May 11, 2017

Acting On Impulse

The Washington Post has an in-depth look into the background of the Comey firing.

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government. By last weekend, he had made up his mind: Comey had to go.

At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

Back at work Monday morning in Washington, Trump told Vice President Pence and several senior aides — Reince Priebus, Stephen K. Bannon and Donald McGahn, among others — that he was ready to move on Comey. First, though, he wanted to talk with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his trusted confidant, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, to whom Comey reported directly. Trump summoned the two of them to the White House for a meeting, according to a person close to the White House.

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

The pair quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders, and the next day Trump fired Comey — a breathtaking move that thrust a White House already accustomed to chaos into a new level of tumult, one that has legal as well as political consequences.

Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Justice Department officials declined to comment.

When asked during a photo op why he fired Comey, Trump said he wasn’t “doing a good job.”  That means — to Trump — Comey wasn’t toeing the White House line that President Obama had secretly wiretapped Trump Tower, he wasn’t investigating the leaks from the White House and, worst of all, he was hogging too much screen time on TV talking about Russia.

The president can fire anyone in the executive branch; they all serve, as the saying goes, at the pleasure of the president.  But there has to be some sort of impulse control; everyone loses their temper over something with someone, but that doesn’t mean you act out on it with deep political and even legal consequences.

It’s no great revelation to find out that Trump is not someone who thinks things through; he was genuinely surprised at the shitstorm that fell on him Tuesday night and all day yesterday.  He thought the Democrats would be happy he did what some of them clamored for last fall and for the reason they wanted: he screwed up the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.  He didn’t see the glaring truth that nobody would buy that from him now, and then when he goes and gratuitously throws in “you’re not investigating me,” he sounds like a kid who says “Don’t look in my room, Mom!”

He also had no clue — or if he did, he didn’t care — that this move will make it basically impossible to get anything through Congress without a Sisyphean struggle.  The Democrats, well-taught by the Republicans during the Obama administration, will use every lever and device they can to throw sand in the gears of confirmation hearings and legislation until they get answers.

If Trump is counting on loyalists in the party to hold up his story, he’s either forgetting — or doesn’t care — that Congress is up for re-election in less than two years and the longer the Republicans are tied to this juggernaut of a clusterfuck, they’re going to be the ones who get the blowback from the voters.  Yes, November 2018 is an eternity in politics, but Google lasts forever and you can be sure that there are plenty of political ads already being crafted with vulnerable GOP representatives with bulls-eyes painted on their backs.  When it comes down to standing with Trump or saving their own skin, it’s not hard to guess which choice they’ll make.

None of this is going to force Trump out of office ahead of schedule.  Talk of impeachment or resignation is just so much delusional click-bait.  But if he keeps acting on impulse like this — and dog forbid he should lash out at a foreign power or adversary in this manner — the more he will lose credibility and leverage with anyone other than his rabid base and basically become an attention-seeking noisemaker with access to the nuclear codes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Zombie Repeal

The Republicans are trying to keep hope alive.

Republicans have had the weekend to think about what it means that they failed in their years-long process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, after they were forced to pull their replacement bill Friday. And they have decided that they want to another shot at it, though they wouldn’t elaborate on the timeline of such an effort or what priority it would take.

“Obamacare is a collapsing law. Obamacare is doing too much damage to families,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters after a conference meeting Tuesday morning. “And so, we’re going to get this right. And in the meantime, we’re going to do all of our other work that we came here to do.”

This is the kind of talk you’d expect after a humiliating defeat, not unlike the losing team chants “wait ’til next year!” after they finish twenty games behind.  It’s all bluff, bluster, and yet another round of shaking down the gullible with fund-raising pleas.  As long as they can keep grifting, they’ll be saying they’re trying to repeal Obamacare.

My guess is that they will repeal it right after Trump releases his taxes.  They’ve been promising that, too, y’know.  Any day now.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Go For It

Via the New York Times, Democrats are really fired up now.

Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.

Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.

Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the “party of no” — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said there had been a “tornado of support” for wall-to-wall resistance to Mr. Trump. Mr. Inslee, who backed a lawsuit against the president’s executive order banning refugee admissions and travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, said Democrats intended to send a stern message to Mr. Trump during a conference of governors in the nation’s capital.

“My belief is, we have to resist every way and everywhere, every time we can,” when Mr. Trump offends core American values, Mr. Inslee said. By undermining Mr. Trump across the board, he said, Democrats hope to split Republicans away from a president of their own party.

“Ultimately, we’d like to have a few Republicans stand up to rein him in,” Mr. Inslee said. “The more air goes out of his balloon, the earlier and likelier that is to happen.”

Yet Democrats acknowledge there is a wide gulf between the party’s desire to fight Mr. Trump and its power to thwart him, quietly worrying that the expectations of the party’s activist base may outpace what Democratic lawmakers can achieve.

“They want us to impeach him immediately,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “And of course we can’t do that by ourselves.”

Some in the party also fret that a posture of unremitting hostility to the president could imperil lawmakers in red states that Mr. Trump won last year, or compromise efforts for Democrats to present themselves to moderate voters as an inoffensive alternative to the polarizing president.

Not to be churlish, but it’s about damn time; where was this six months ago?  A year ago?  It doesn’t matter that no one took Trump seriously and a lot of Democrats were out shopping at Ikea for their West Wing furniture and Senate Majority office space.  If they had, maybe they wouldn’t be hollering up the stairs from the cellar.

What more do they have to lose?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Perfect Fit

Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama is being considered for cabinet posts.  But the New York Times says he has a problem.

WASHINGTON — In 1981, a Justice Department prosecutor from Washington stopped by to see Jeff Sessions, the United States attorney in Mobile, Ala., at the time. The prosecutor, J. Gerald Hebert, said he had heard a shocking story: A federal judge had called a prominent white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.

“Well,” Mr. Sessions replied, according to Mr. Hebert, “maybe he is.”

In testimony before Congress in 1986, Mr. Hebert and others painted an unflattering portrait of Mr. Sessions, who would go on to become a senator from Alabama and now, according to numerous sources close to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team, is a potential nominee for attorney general or secretary of defense. Mr. Hebert testified that Mr. Sessions had referred to the American Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

One African-American prosecutor testified that Mr. Sessions had called him “boy” and joked that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.”

Mr. Sessions denied calling the lawyer “boy” but acknowledged or did not dispute the substance of the other remarks. The bitter testimony sank his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal district court judge and foreshadowed the questions that Mr. Sessions could face at another set of Senate confirmation hearings if Mr. Trump nominates him for a cabinet position.

He sounds like the right kind of fella for the Trump base: racist, Klan-fan, and steeped in good-ole-boy charm.  He and Steve Bannon would work well together and the Senate should whoop him through.