Friday, October 13, 2017

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.

Man Of God or Godfather?

Yet another story about a “man of morals” making out like a Mafia don.

Former Alabama judge Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, once said publicly that he did not take a “regular salary” from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden.

But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.

When the charity couldn’t afford the full amount, Moore in 2012 was given a promissory note for back pay eventually worth $540,000 or an equal stake of the charity’s most valuable asset, a historic building in Montgomery, Ala., mortgage records show. He holds that note even now, a charity official said.

The bad news is that this will not have any impact at all on his standing with the True Believers in Alabama.

Of course, if you’re so inclined, you could donate to Doug Jones, Moore’s opponent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

National Coming Out Day

In a way it’s too bad that we still have to make a deal out of coming out of the closet even with all the advances that have been made in both the LGBTQ community and life in general.  But when we still have active oppression on the part of government entities and sex-obsessed busy-bodies who are railing about retribution based on fables and superstition (all the while some of the most ardent opponents of gay rights are paying off their rent-boys), attention must be paid to those who are still dealing with both their true nature and their place in our society.

I hope for the time when National Coming Out Day is as big a deal as National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  That would be something to celebrate.

For the record, my coming out day was over 40 years ago, so you kids have fun.

Can The Democrats Take Back The Senate?

Via TPM:

Here’s the key concluding line from Charlie Cook’s article on the Corker meltdown: “Last week’s news reduced the odds of the GOP retaining its majority from a good bet to even money.”

So Cook, one of the best known election predictors, says it’s 50/50 who controls the Senate after the 2018 midterm.

A lot of good things would have to fall into place for it to happen, including the Trumpistas primarying moderate Republicans like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada out of the race and replacing them with bug-eyed neo-Nazis, which would open the race for a well-engineered Democrat to swoop in and pick up disenchanted Republicans and energized Democrats.  As it is, the Democrats are defending an inordinate number of seats already.

However, stranger things have happened.  As Josh Marshall notes, in 2012 Claire McCaskill was not supposed to win re-election in Missouri until her opponent, Todd Akin, spoke up on “legitimate rape,” and Joe Donnelly of Indiana won a squeaker because his Republican shoe-in, Richard Mourdock, hadn’t fallen into the same trap.  But the Democrats have to do their part: they have to come up with strong candidates who can convince the voters on their own merits and visions rather than wait for their opponent to turn into Wile E. Coyote.

So Funny I Forgot To Laugh

When a challenge falls flat, the way to recover is to try to suggest it was all a joke, right?

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried Tuesday to smooth over tensions in their relationship during a White House lunch after the president proposed an “IQ tests” faceoff with his top diplomat, who earlier had privately called Trump a “moron” and disparaged his grasp of foreign policy.

In an interview with Forbes magazine published Tuesday morning, Trump fired a shot at Tillerson over the “moron” revelation, first reported by NBC News and confirmed by several other news organizations, including The Washington Post.

“I think it’s fake news,” Trump said, “but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later insisted that Trump’s comment was “a joke and nothing more than that.”

The problem with Trump is that you can never tell when he’s making a joke.  He has no discernible sense of humor, so what’s the basis of comparison?

This, however, is not a joke.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

He Did It Again

Did anyone really think that Trump would honor the deal on DACA that he came up with “Chuck and Nancy”?

Trump, who pledged to help protect young people known as “Dreamers” brought illegally to the United States as children, called on Sunday for money to fund a border wall to be part of any immigration deal.

In a list of “principles” laid out in documents released by the White House, the Trump administration also pressed for a crackdown on unaccompanied minors who enter the United States, many of them from Central America.

The plan, which was delivered to leaders in Congress on Sunday night, drew a swift rebuke from Democrats, who are seeking a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump ended last month.

“The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans,” said House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

“The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” they said in a statement.

I think we’ve seen this before.

How could they not know this was going to happen?  Trump was never going to give in on the wall and on demonizing the Dreamers.  It’s his whole shtick; it’s why he descended the Golden Escalator in the first place, and it’s his connection to the base (see below).

The catch is that while he was happy to mess with the Republicans while sitting down with Chuck and Nancy and now he’s turned on them, there’s no reason why he won’t do it again just to be Trump.

Base Coating

According to a poll published by Reuters, Trump is losing support from his rural base.

Outside the Morgan County fair in McConnelsville, in a rural swath of Ohio that fervently backed U.S. President Donald Trump in last year’s election, ticket seller John Wilson quietly counts off a handful of disappointments with the man he helped elect.

The 70-year-old retired banker said he is unhappy with infighting and turnover in the White House. He does not like Trump’s penchant for traveling to his personal golf resorts. He wishes the president would do more to fix the healthcare system, and he worries that Trump might back down from his promise to force illegal immigrants out of the country.

“Every president makes mistakes,” Wilson said. “But if you add one on top of one, on top of another one, on top of another, there’s just a limit.”

Trump, who inspired millions of supporters last year in places like Morgan County, has been losing his grip on rural America.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll, the Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 percent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him.

I hate to throw cold water on your hopes that this slippage means the tide is finally turning and that rural America is waking up to the fact that they got conned by this cheap vulgarian.  Given the choice between him and a Democrat, they’d vote for him again.  After all, he promised that he’d get rid of the illegals and make America great again, and when you’re given the choice between abstract possibilities and admitting out loud that you got taken, the abstracts will win every time.

Say what you will about Trump, he knows how to keep his base.  Find a kneeling black football player, pick on a Puerto Rican mayor, start a Twitter war with a moderate Republican; it’s all about the distraction and the visceral.  The base will back him every time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Annals Of Hypocrisy

Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator and he got what he deserved by being fired by his own company.  Democrats who got money for their campaigns from him have denounced him and turned the donations over to charity.

Meanwhile the Republicans who took money from Roger Ailes and the Murdochs, sucked up to Bill O’Reilly, and still supported the pussy-grabber in the White House have been trying to play gotcha.  And because the media is obsessed with the notion that “both sides do it,” they’ll get away with their flaming hypocrisy.  Again.

Stagecraft vs. Statecraft

The Trump administration went to great taxpayer expense yesterday to alienate an awful lot of people and demonstrate that yes, they truly do disrespect the opinions of several million people while at the same time dividing the country.

Trump reignited his feud with the N.F.L. on Sunday by telling Vice President Mike Pence to walk out of a game in his home state of Indiana after nearly two dozen players from the visiting San Francisco 49ers knelt during the playing of the national anthem.

Mr. Pence lavishly documented his early departure in a series of tweets and an official statement issued by his office. On Twitter, he declared, “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”

While the vice president portrayed his decision as a gesture of patriotic principle, it had the distinct appearance of a well-planned, if costly, political stunt. He doubled back from a trip to the West Coast to take a seat in the stands in Indianapolis, where the 49ers — the team most associated with the N.F.L. protest movement against racial injustice — were suiting up to play the Colts.

Shortly after Mr. Pence issued his statement, Mr. Trump said on Twitter, “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”

For Mr. Trump, the vice president’s walkout keeps alive a dispute that has proved popular with his political base, even if he has drawn criticism from the N.F.L. and some of its owners for being divisive and politicizing professional sports. On Sunday, a spokesman for the N.F.L., Joe Lockhart, declined to comment on Mr. Pence’s statement.

While politicians from both parties concoct situations for political gain, some criticized Mr. Pence’s walkout as transparently premeditated. The vice president did not take a pool reporter traveling with him into the stadium; a member of Mr. Pence’s staff told the reporter, Vaughn Hillyard, that the vice president might be leaving the game early.

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets,” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote on Twitter.

Others pointed out the expense involved: Mr. Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas, where he had attended a memorial service for victims of last Sunday’s mass shooting, and was immediately flying back to Los Angeles.

“After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, said in a tweet.

There was little doubt, given the presence of the 49ers, that Mr. Pence would be given an opportunity to make his political statement. The former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the dispute over the national anthem last year by taking a knee to highlight the plight of black Americans, particularly the killing of black men by police officers.

Mr. Kaepernick left the 49ers in March and has not been signed by any other team — a situation seen by many as a blacklisting by other team owners. But other 49ers have continued the protest in a show of solidarity with their former teammate.

In America — at least the country that I believe in — no one dictates to anyone else how to show patriotism, be it a salute to a flag or the recitation of a pledge, and certainly not with a stunt that was deliberately staged to inflame the issue.

A grown-up and inclusive administration would have worked to find out what could be done to bring people together and to understand the grievance.  Someone who understands statecraft would have said that while they may not agree with the act, they have every right to show their true feelings.  Or, best of all, they would have said absolutely nothing in public to make the situation worse.

But that’s not the America Trump and his puppet Pence believe in.