Thursday, December 7, 2017

Franken Sense

Via the Minneapolis StarTribune:

– Democratic Party leaders united Wednesday in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign from the U.S. Senate, an extraordinary rebuke to the Minnesota Democrat as he faced a new allegation of sexual harassment.

Franken planned to make an announcement about his future Thursday morning on the Senate floor. A top Democratic official told the Star Tribune that Franken planned to resign, but the senator’s staff insisted no final decision had been made.

It was clear that Franken’s political career was hanging by a thread, as a wave of Democrats throughout the day — first female senators, followed by many male colleagues and then other party leaders, said it was time for him to step down from the seat he’s held since 2009.

“I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first of Franken’s Democratic colleagues to come out against him, posted on Facebook.

If Franken resigns, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a temporary replacement. A high-ranking Democratic source told the Star Tribune that the likeliest replacement is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a close Dayton ally who would not be expected to run for the seat in an ensuing special election in November 2018. Dayton is expected to move quickly if Franken resigns.

I’m not going to pile on Sen. Franken about his behavior.  No one — least of all Mr. Franken himself — has made excuses, called it “fake news,” or denied it.  He’s apologized sincerely many times over, and not tried to say that because he has made an attempt to make amends, he should stay in office.  Sometimes the amends include giving up, and it looks like he’s doing it.

But he’s also being used as the bargaining chip in a political battle to claim the moral high ground against the Republicans, Trump, and Roy Moore in Alabama.  In order for the Democrats to have a clean road to campaign against Mr. Moore and his history, the Democrats have to show that they won’t tolerate bad — or possibly criminal — conduct from anyone, including a popular and well-liked figure such as Mr. Franken.

I’ve been around long enough to know that this is how the game is played.  It’s not exactly “House of Cards” (although the irony of Kevin Spacey losing the gig because he’s a sexual predator proves that karma can be a drama queen) nor “Game of Thrones” because there be no dragons here, but moving the pieces on the chessboard requires a willingness to give up a knight to protect the king.  It makes sense politically.  The one thing I’m not sure of is how well it serves the people of Minnesota, but that calculus seems to be only a minor factor in the strategy.

The hard truth is that it may all be for naught.  The race in Alabama is still too close to call, and if Roy Moore wins, the only thing it will prove is that the Democrats are willing to sacrifice in order to demonstrate their scruples while the Republicans are all too happy to show they have none and win anyway.  And we knew that long before the pictures came out.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Reading

We’re With Stupid — Timothy Egan in the New York Times.

It would be much easier to sleep at night if you could believe that we’re in such a mess of misinformation simply because Russian agents disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million people on Facebook.

The Russians also uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power.

But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship.

Lost in the news grind over Roy Moore, the lawbreaking Senate candidate from Alabama, is how often he has tried to violate the Constitution. As a judge, he was removed from the bench — twice — for lawless acts that follow his theocratic view of governance.

Shariah law has been justifiably criticized as a dangerous injection of religion into the public space. Now imagine if a judge insisted on keeping a monument to the Quran in a state judicial building. Or that he said “homosexual conduct” should be illegal because his sacred book tells him so. That is exactly what Moore has done, though he substitutes the Bible for the Quran.

I don’t blame Moore. I blame his followers, and the press, which doesn’t seem to know that the First Amendment specifically aims to keep government from siding with one religion — the so-called establishment clause.

My colleagues at the opinion shop on Sunday used a full page to print the Bill of Rights, and urge President Trump to “Please Read the Constitution.” Yes, it’s come to this. On press freedom, due process, exercise of religion and other areas, Trump has repeatedly gone into Roy Moore territory — dismissing the principles he has sworn to uphold.

Suppose we treated citizenship like getting a driver’s license. People would have to pass a simple test on American values, history and geography before they were allowed to have a say in the system. We do that for immigrants, and 97 percent of them pass, according to one study.

Yet one in three Americans fail the immigrant citizenship test. This is not an elitist barrier. The test includes questions like, “What major event happened on 9/11?” and “What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?”

One reason that public schools were established across the land was to produce an informed citizenry. And up until the 1960s, it was common for students to take three separate courses in civics and government before they got out of high school.

Now only a handful of states require proficiency in civics as a condition of high school graduation. Students are hungry, in this turbulent era, for discussion of politics and government. But the educators are failing them. Civics has fallen to the side, in part because of the standardized test mania.

A related concern is historical ignorance. By a 48 percent to 38 percent margin Americans think states’ rights, rather than slavery, caused the Civil War. So Trump’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, can say something demonstrably false about the war, because most people are just as clueless as he is.

There’s hope — and there are many ways — to shed light on the cave of American democracy. More than a dozen states now require high school students to pass the immigrant citizenship test. We should also teach kids how to tell fake news from real, as some schools in Europe are doing.

But those initiatives will mean little if people still insist on believing what they want to believe, living in digital safe spaces closed off from anything that intrudes on their worldview.

A Test For Liberals — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.

At the press conference last week in which Beverly Young Nelson described how when she was a high-school student, in 1977, Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, who was then a deputy district attorney, tried to physically force her to engage in oral sex with him, she also talked about her vote in last year’s election. “My husband and I supported Donald Trump for President,” Nelson said. “This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Republicans or the Democrats.” Yet Moore, and his campaign, wanted to make it exactly about that, even as other women came forward with charges against him. (As of last Friday, a total of nine had done so.) In a statement to the Washington Post, the campaign said, “If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. . . . If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.”

From this perspective, the news, last Thursday, that Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, also had misconduct allegations against him looked to some like an opportunity to test a similar formulation. Leeann Tweeden, a radio host, said that in 2006, two years before Franken ran for office, she joined him on a U.S.O. tour to Afghanistan and Iraq, and he kissed her during a rehearsal, although she told him not to. He later posed for a photograph in which he appeared to grab her breasts while she was sleeping, wearing camouflage gear and a Kevlar helmet. If you are a liberal and love Al Franken, would you decide—indeed, know—that these allegations are a political farce? The answer, properly and unambiguously, is no.

A number of Franken’s Senate colleagues, including Amy Klobuchar, also of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, condemned his acts. Franken, after a first, halting apology, offered a fuller one, in which he said that he was “disgusted” by his own behavior and that he will coöperate with an ethics-committee investigation into the allegations. The committee, though, hasn’t sanctioned anyone in years. Last week, several women lawmakers reported that sexual harassment on Capitol Hill is pervasive, and that, as Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, put it, the system for dealing with it is “a joke.” During the past twenty years, Congress has paid out seventeen million dollars to settle claims of harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination, while keeping those payments secret. Speier also said that there were two cases involving current members of Congress.

In some ways, the Franken story is a small, sad proxy for his party’s Bill Clinton problem. Last week, as more sexual-harassment and assault charges came to light, some people started looking again at a rape allegation that Juanita Broaddrick brought against the former President. In 1978, Broaddrick, a nursing-home administrator, met Clinton, at that time the Arkansas attorney general, for a business meeting in her hotel room—to avoid the press, she thought—and there, she said, he attacked her. (A lawyer for Clinton has denied this.) A colleague says that she heard the story from Broaddrick immediately afterward, when she found her with torn panty hose and a swollen lip.

Broaddrick’s story came out, in 1999, largely thanks to Lisa Myers, of NBC News, after Clinton’s acquittal in his impeachment trial—a case that grew out of a sexual-harassment suit brought by Paula Jones—and the charge was left unresolved. Early in the impeachment imbroglio, Hillary Clinton had attributed her husband’s troubles to “a vast, right-wing conspiracy.” There was a well-funded conservative effort to target the President, but, in this instance, the charge feels too close to Moore’s assertion that liberals simply believe one thing, and conservatives another.

When Clinton ran for President in 2016, she may not have gauged how profoundly Bill Clinton’s record with women would hurt her. Just a month before the election, after the “Access Hollywood” video emerged, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals, he brought Broaddrick and Jones to a Presidential debate. Clinton dismissed this as a stunt, meant to throw her off her game. But the key audience for it was purple-state women, particularly middle-aged or older working-class women, who might identify with Broaddrick, or be receptive, based on their own experience, to the contention that, as Trump put it, Hillary was Bill’s “enabler.” (Polls after the election showed that Clinton performed less well with those voters than her campaign had hoped.) For others, Clinton’s decision to make her husband an active part of her campaign—and the potential First Spouse—constrained it.

Many factors played into Clinton’s defeat, but at that juncture Bill cost her heavily, by keeping “Access Hollywood” from costing Trump the election. As hard as it is to hear, particularly given the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy and her laudable record on everything from climate change to children’s health, her nomination compromised the Democratic Party. There were other choices, early on; perhaps one of the fourteen Democratic women in the Senate in 2015 might have emerged. Voters in Alabama, where Moore is on the ballot in December—and in Minnesota, where Al Franken is up for reëlection next year—might remember that they have choices, too.

President Trump, for his part, tweeted that the “Al Frankenstien picture is really bad,” adding, “And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment.” Some of that “lecturing” has been directed, with good cause, at Trump himself; he shouldn’t expect it to end. Efforts, like the President’s, to act as though one transgression can cancel out another suggest that the problem is just one of calculating how many Frankens add up to a Moore—how many charges of groping for one of attempted statutory rape. There is no abuse-indulgence account that each party can draw on, though.

That is also true in assessing their ideologies. The national Republican leadership has, to an extent, backed away from Moore—the Alabama state Party has not—but it had earlier supported him even though he said that he did not believe that Muslims ought to be seated in Congress or that gays and lesbians should have basic rights. That shows not only who Moore is but what the G.O.P. has become. Franken has worked hard for progressive causes in his political life. But, here, too, whatever points that earns him, or his colleagues, are not spendable in some market in women’s dignity. The Democratic Party is better than that.

The Simplest Way — John Nichols in The Nation.

Republicans elites feel so entitled to the Alabama Senate seat that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III vacated to become Donald Trump’s attorney general that they are meticulously neglecting the easiest strategy for keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has called on Moore, the scandal-plagued former judge who now faces multiple allegations that as a 30-something prosecutor he molested teenage girls, to quit the Alabama race. But Moore’s not quitting. In fact, he says McConnell should resign.

So DC Republicans are spinning complex scenarios for keeping Moore out of their caucus. The scenarios have grown increasingly arcane, and unworkable. But they keep coming.

There has been speculation that if Moore is elected in the December 12 special election, he could be seated and then expelled. But there’s no guarantee that it will happen. Expulsions are rare, and there’s a reason for that: A super-majority of senators—two-thirds of the chamber—is required to overturn an election result.

Then there are the proposed write-in campaigns: for Strange, for Sessions, for just about any Republican except Moore. But write-in victories are almost as rare as expulsions. And the wrong strategy for a write-in run could end up splitting the anti-Moore vote.

It’s likely that McConnell and his compatriots will proposing convoluted political “fixes.” But none of them will be certain, or in some cases even likely, to block the judge.

Moore faces a credible opponent in Democrat Doug Jones, a former US Attorney with a distinguished record of defending the rule of law and prosecuting the violent racists who were responsible for the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. He is running a strong campaign; indeed, some polls are now giving him the lead in this intense contest.

Jones has been endorsed by a number of grassroots Alabama Republicans; he is even running television ads featuring them.

There is a very long history in American politics of voters crossing partisan lines to reject candidates they object to—or to support candidates who impress them. The 1924 Democratic nominee for president, corporate lawyer John Davis, frequently endorsed Republicans who were running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were “Democrats for Eisenhower” groups in the 1950s, “Republicans for Johnson” groups in 1964 and “Democrats for Nixon” groups in 1972. Bill Weld was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990 because a lot of cross-over voters preferred his libertarian-leaning Republicanism to his Democratic opponent’s social conservatism. And Barack Obama ran in 2008 with a long list of endorsements from prominent Republicans and former Republicans.

There are contests where it is ethically necessary to put aside partisanship and back a candidate from another party. There are also times when it is politically practical to abandon your party line for one election.

The Alabama contest meets the ethical standard, and the practical standard. A few wise Republicans recognize this. Asked last week if he would support a Democratic candidate over Moore, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake replied: “If the choice is between Roy Moore and a Democrat — the Democrat, no doubt.”

Flake added: “I would literally — if I were in Alabama — I would run to the polling place to vote for the Democrat.”

The choice in Alabama, as its stands now, is between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones.

If Mitch McConnell and his Republican allies are serious about keeping a reprehensible Republican out of the Senate, they don’t need convoluted strategies. They need only to recognize the reality of their circumstance—and the logic of the electoral calculus that Jeff Flake had already explained.

Doonesbury — What it’s not.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Fighting In The Wayback

A friend asked me yesterday what I thought of the Donna Brazille kerfuffle.  I was driving in heavy traffic on I-95 and trying not to get run over by some small-penised dude in his hyped-up Subaru with the coffee-can muffler (I was going 80 and barely keeping up with the rest of the traffic), so my reply was mostly a shrug and a wish that the Democrats would stop trying to lose the 2016 election again.

No, there is no leadership in the Democratic party.  That’s not surprising since they’re out of power; that duty usually falls to the President in the White House and they don’t have that.  The intrigue and gossip in the party is on a level of kids fighting in the back of the station wagon on a cross-country trip while the GOP is getting ready to rumble with Steve Bannon and Mitch McConnell deciding whether there should be rules in a knife fight.  But Democrats always find a way to make it look so much worse.

Digby:

Democrats suck. You know it. I know it. But at this point it’s all we’ve got. Maybe we could just keep it together long enough to deal with Hitler and then go back to fighting amongst ourselves? If we don’t, there might not be anything left to fight over.

That’s what sustains me in my time of trouble.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When The Fog Rolls In

This kind of reporting would worry any family with a loved one who is being to lose contact with everyday reality.  But when it comes from the White House, it’s scary.

Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair:

At first it sounded like hyperbole, the escalation of a Twitter war. But now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview—in which the Republican senator described the White House as “adult day care” and warned Trump could start World War III—was an inflection point in the Trump presidency. It brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”

The conversation among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There’s a new level of concern. NBC News published a report that Trump shocked his national security team when he called for a nearly tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal during a briefing this summer. One Trump adviser confirmed to me it was after this meeting disbanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” a person close to Trump said. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”

According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision. Today, speculation about Kelly’s future increased after Politico reported that Kelly’s deputy Kirstjen Nielsen is likely to be named Homeland Security Secretary—the theory among some Republicans is that Kelly wanted to give her a soft landing before his departure.

One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said. Even Trump’s most loyal backers are sowing public doubts. This morning, The Washington Post quoted longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack saying he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by Trump’s behavior.

While Kelly can’t control Trump’s tweets, he is doing his best to physically sequester the president—much to Trump’s frustration. One major G.O.P. donor told me access to Trump has been cut off, and his outside calls to the White House switchboard aren’t put through to the Oval Office. Earlier this week, I reported on Kelly’s plans to prevent Trump from mingling with guests at Mar-a-Lago later this month. And, according to two sources, Keith Schiller quit last month after Kelly told Schiller he needed permission to speak to the president and wanted written reports of their conversations.

The White House denies these accounts. “The President’s mood is good and his outlook on the agenda is very positive,” an official said.

There are only so many ways you can cover for someone’s behavior and still keep up appearances.  Trust me, I know this from personal experience, and the people who have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis are under tremendous strain, not just because someone they care about is suffering, they have to watch as it progresses.

I may despise everything that Trump stands for and does, but I do not take any satisfaction or schadenfreude in seeing this happen if the story is accurate.  It’s frightening on many levels.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Still Not There Yet

AT&T keeps coming up with new ways to avoid telling me when I’ll get phone and internet back.  Yesterday in an on-line chat, “Ashley” asked for a contact number so they could text me when service is restored.  I gave her my cell phone number noting that “It’s a Verizon number.  They never went down during the storm.  Ironic, huh?”  She was not amused.

One the good news front, Bob and The Old Professor finally got power yesterday, ten days after the lights went out.  They still don’t have cable TV, but they have the internet and clean clothes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Canary In The Coal Mine

Josh Marshall looks at how Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is doing back home.

In a word, lousy.

A few moments ago I noticed a new PPP poll showing that Mitch McConnell seems to have been damaged significantly in his home state of Kentucky by the effort to repeal Obamacare. The number that caught my eye was that McConnell has an astonishing 74% disapproval rating with just 18% approving of his performance in office. A hypothetical Democrat beats him by 7 percentage points. But that only tells part of the story.

McConnell is down at 18% approval. But Trump has a 60% approval rating in the state. If voters are upset with McConnell’s dogged efforts to repeal Obamacare, why is Trump doing so well? Or is it that McConnell failed to repeal Obamacare? And Good Lord, how can Mitch McConnell have a 74% disapproval rating? Congressional leaders always have low approval. See Boehner, Pelosi, Gingrich, et al. But that’s nationally. They almost always maintain strong support in their own states or districts. After all, that’s how they keep getting reelected. This is just a snapshot long before McConnell will face reelection in 2020. But for now the poll shows McConnell trailing a Democratic opponent 37% to 44%.

The conclusion he comes to is that despite the fact that Kentucky is a very red state — Trump won in with 62% of the vote over Hillary Clinton — they love their version of Obamacare implemented by then-Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat.  Of course they don’t call it “Obamacare” because well duh, but the majority of the people like what they get and they’re not in favor of those who would rip it out.  McConnell leading the attempt to end Obamacare probably doesn’t win him any support back in his old Kentucky home among the coal miners.

Is this an object lesson for other Republicans who have gone out on the limb with Trump and the folks who would not lose any sleep over 22 million people losing health care as long as they get to keep their own?  Yes, it is as long as the Democrats can do two things: keep reminding voters who it was that voted for health care and taking care of them and who didn’t, and running candidates who aren’t afraid to challenge the Republicans to defend their support of the most unpopular president in modern times.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Going After Their Own

Politico reports that Trumpists have formed a group to attack Republicans who don’t fall in line with the White House policies.

A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you.

America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan.

That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles.

“Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

America First Policies is set to expand its campaign early this week with TV ads that will go after the Nevada senator.

Oh, goodie.  In-fighting among factions in a political party always works well.  Just ask the Democrats.  Or Leon Trotsky.

The problem is that so far Sen. Heller is disinclined to punch back, which indicates that he’s either afraid of further alienating the White House or he somehow thinks there are more like him who will oppose stupid and evil bills because they’re stupid and evil instead of supporting them so his party can win.  That indicates evidence of conscience, and that’s not allowed in the GOP.

For what it’s worth, my guess is the former rather than the latter.

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.