Thursday, November 9, 2023

Good News For John McCain

I realize I may be whipping this point beyond your patience, but bear with me.  Here it is: I am getting very tired of hearing that no matter how well the Democrats are doing in off-year elections and the Republicans are a trainwreck with a felonious engineer at the throttle, the Very Serious Pundits are still convinced that Joe Biden is gonna lose.

Almost every Tuesday election since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has brought good news for Democrats.

Last night was no exception.

Abortion rights and marijuana legalization prevailed in Ohio. Democrats held the governor’s mansion in Kentucky, took full control of the State Legislature in Virginia and won a Supreme Court election in Pennsylvania. They even were competitive in Mississippi.

In one sense, the results were no surprise. The polls showed Democrats and their causes ahead in these races, and the party has excelled in low-turnout special elections over the last year.

But the results were especially elating for Democrats against the backdrop of the latest polls, including the newest New York Times/Siena College poll, which seemed to spell doom for the Democrats. There was no doom Tuesday night.

To many, the contradiction between Democrats’ success at the ballot box and their struggles in surveys seems to suggest the polling can’t be right.

It’s an understandable response — but it’s probably wrong.

There’s no contradiction between the polling and Tuesday’s election results. There’s not even a contradiction between the polling and the last year of special elections.

Put simply: Tuesday’s results don’t change the picture for President Biden heading into 2024.

This is the equivalent to the mantra we heard in 2008 when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and the VSP’s agreed that it was good news for John McCain.  When Sarah Palin blew across the stage like a sugared-up eight-year-old and blathering about Obama being a terrorist, that was good news for John McCain.  And when Barack Obama won the election in November 2008, it was — wait for it — good news for John McCain because he could regroup and come back in 2012 without the burden of the nitwit from Wasilla.

Tuesday night’s election results are nothing but great news for the Democrats across the country, and guess what: Joe Biden is a Democrat and he’s the president.  And as I explained the other day, poll numbers a year before the election are meaningless.

What’s even more fucking annoying is that the Democrats are predictably losing their collective fecal matter and publicly wondering if it’s too late to repeal the 22nd Amendment and get Barack Obama out of retirement.

Let this cooler head prevail.  E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

Tuesday’s bombshells pointed almost entirely toward Democratic resilience and Republican weakness. Yes, Biden has much work to do in dealing with voters’ worries about his age, high prices and immigration. But imagine what we’d have heard if Republican efforts in Kentucky and, at the end, in Virginia to make the elections about Biden had defeated Democrats. Dodging that bullet gives Biden a chance to regroup and to crow just a little, as he did on X: “Voters vote,” he wrote. “Polls don’t.”

As I said the other day, stop already.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Sunday Reading

“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” – Proverbs 11:29, and the title of a very fine play.

Inherit the Wind Part II — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Kevin McCarthy’s hollow victory.

Early Saturday morning, amid scenes redolent of the nineteenth century, when brawls occasionally broke out on the floor of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the 118th Congress. After it was all over—after McCarthy had angrily confronted the holdout Matt Gaetz in full view of the C-SPAN cameras; after a fellow-congressman had to grab the McCarthy ally Mike Rogers, of Alabama, around the throat to keep him from lunging at Gaetz; after enough of the holdouts had finally agreed to end this four-day political debacle in a fifteenth ballot—after all that, the best the fifty-seven-year-old Californian could manage, when his Democratic opponent Hakeem Jeffries finally handed him the wooden gavel, was a lame wisecrack, followed by a telling admission. “That was easy, huh?” McCarthy said. “I never thought we’d get up here.”

Be careful what you wish for. Perhaps the most revealing image of the ugly night came shortly after the final ballot had been completed. As McCarthy sat waiting for the official tally, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right election denier and conspiracy theorist who represents Georgia’s Fourteenth District, crouched down beside him to take a cheek-to-cheek picture with the soon-to-be Speaker. In February, 2021, eleven House Republicans voted with the Democrats to strip Greene of her committee assignments. McCarthy wasn’t among them, but he did issue a statement “unequivocally” condemning some of her incendiary statements, which included endorsing political violence against Democrats and suggesting that some school shootings had been staged. After McCarthy’s tortuous elevation, things are very different. In return for backing McCarthy, Greene will likely receive new committee assignments and be treated, by Party leaders, as an important ally, despite the fact that just last month she said the January 6th insurrection would have succeeded if she and Steve Bannon had been in charge of it. Based on his own self-serving modus operandi, McCarthy doesn’t have much choice but to comply; if he is to get anything done over the next two years, he will need to retain the support of Greene and many other far-right extremists.

This prospect is already raising alarms on Wall Street, where attention is focussing on the need to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. government default—an imperative that will probably become pressing by the summer. Earlier this week, Representative Ralph Norman, of South Carolina, who is a member of the Freedom Caucus, called on McCarthy to “shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling,” adding that this demand was “a non-negotiable item.” In this instance, it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on the MAGA crazies: months ago, McCarthy and Senator John Thune, of South Dakota, both made clear that they favored using the debt limit to force big cuts in spending. But McCarthy’s humiliation has made clear how little flexibility he will have in managing his own caucus during the debt-ceiling brinkmanship.

A repeat of the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, in which the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives defied President Barack Obama, now seems likely, and it could be a lengthy one. Ultimately, perhaps, even the members of the Freedom Caucus won’t want to be held responsible for a financial crash that tanks their voters’ 401(k) plans and endangers the mighty dollar, especially at the start of another Presidential-election campaign. But who really knows?

More immediately, McCarthy’s hollow victory opens the way for months more of G.O.P. performance art, which will likely encompass passing legislation that has no chance of being enacted by the Democratic-controlled Senate and holding innumerable conspiracy-theory-stoking hearings into the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunter Biden, and anything else that might garner favorable coverage on Fox News and Newsmax. Along the way, the enduring fealty of many House Republicans to Donald Trump is also likely to become clear.

The new rules agreement for the 118th Congress, to which McCarthy acceded in order to win over the MAGA holdouts, and which will almost certainly be voted through on Monday, calls for the establishment of three new investigative subcommittees. The first would look into the origins and handling of the pandemic, and would surely zero in on Anthony Fauci, a frequent target of right-wing attacks. The second would examine “the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.” And the third would address the “Weaponization of the Federal Government”—more or less the adoption of a far-right slogan that implies the “Deep State” is targeting ordinary American citizens.

In a letter to his fellow-Republicans last week, McCarthy said this third panel would be modelled on the nineteen-seventies Church Committee, which examined abuses by the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the I.R.S., and the National Security Agency. Characterizing it this way makes a mockery of history. Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who led the bipartisan Church Committee, was an Army veteran who turned against the Vietnam War and also campaigned for environmental protection. The new subcommittee would operate under the auspices of the House Judiciary Committee, which Jim Jordan, the right-wing Ohio firebrand who led Trump’s impeachment defense in January, 2021, is expected to chair. Under the proposed rules agreement, the subcommittee would have the authority to examine “how executive branch agencies collect, compile, analyze, use, or disseminate information about citizens of the United States, including any unconstitutional, illegal, or unethical activities committed against citizens of the United States.” The agreement also states explicitly that this authority would extend to “ongoing criminal investigations.” On Saturday, Politico reported that this reference appeared to have been added to the rules during last-minute negotiations between McCarthy and his ultra-right opponents. Although Trump is not named explicitly, the added language would appear to give the new subcommittee license to look into, and perhaps hold up, the Justice Department’s investigations of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his post-Presidential mishandling of hundreds of classified documents. In a televised interview, David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida, said that the establishment of the committee was almost like legitimizing the January 6th insurrection.

That helps explain why Trump supported McCarthy to the end. (During the drama on Friday night, the Lear of Mar-a-Lago called several MAGA holdouts to ask them to support the beleaguered Californian.) But it doesn’t explain how the Republican Party has been reduced to this sorry state, or why McCarthy would still want the job of Speaker in these circumstances. For some questions, there are no good answers.

Doonesbury — Bewitched, bothered, and bananas.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Fix Was In

Whatever you may think of the chaos that resulted when the Taliban raced through Afghanistan and took over the country in a matter of days, the simple fact remains that it was all set up from the git-go by previous administrations.

From Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice:

The agreement negotiated by Ambassador Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghan Reconstruction working under the direction of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the direct orders of then President Trump makes the Treaty of Versailles look like strategic genius.

The abject surrender is in part one and sections 2 and 3 of part 3. Part 2, which is the Taliban’s responsibilities as a result of the agreement, are not enforceable by the US once the US and its Coalition allies complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan and because of what the US agreed to in part 1: to never again threaten to use force, use force, or interfere in any way in Afghanistan.

What did the US agree to:

  1. Release of Taliban prisoners,
  2. Lifting of all sanctions,
  3. Complete withdrawal from Afghanistan,
  4. To never again threaten to use force, use force, or interfere in any way in Afghanistan
  5. To seek positive relations with the Taliban
  6. To establish economic reconciliation with the new post occupation Islamic government of Afghanistan


It also DID NOT help that now former Afghan President Ghani issued a stand down order to the Afghan Security Forces before he fled the country, allegedly with millions of dollars:

Or that, as the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has now twice documented,there never really were 300,000 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces because a plurality to a majority of the Afghan soldiers and police officers on the payroll were no show jobs.


Additionally, a number of the commanders in the ANDSF, both military and police, were either selling everything they could to the Taliban to pay their Soldiers and police officers who were not actually being paid, were embezzling the money, and/or took a payout from the Taliban not to fight.

We have four documentable, verifiable reasons for why the Taliban were able to so quickly and easily retake Afghanistan and not a single one of them was the result of something the Biden administration did.

  1. The Trump administration negotiated the US’s abject surrender to the Taliban
  2. Ghani issued a stand down order to the ANDSF before fleeing Afghanistan to save his own hide
  3. We paid to train, equip, and sustain a significant number of Afghan military and police personnel that didn’t exist anywhere except on the payroll
  4. Because Ghani’s government wasn’t paying its soldiers or police, or because its senior military and police leadership were stealing the funding, some Afghan military and police leaders and personnel cut deals with the Taliban not to fight in exchange for money

I think it is important to stipulate that reasons 3 and 4 – the no shows on the payroll and the misappropriation of salaries – began when George W Bush was president and then continued until last week when we began the final withdrawal.

It is also important to recognize that things did not go smoothly last week through this past Monday. It is also important to recognize that things are going smoothly now.

The whole thing looks like a set-up by the previous administration so that if President Biden followed through with the agreement, it would blow up in his face.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Knock Yourself Out

From the New York Times:

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

The effort comes as House Republican leaders are expected on Wednesday to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their ranks because of her outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump’s election lies.

“This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor declined to name the signers. Reuters reported earlier that the former governors Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey will sign it, as will former Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and former Representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

Mr. Taylor declined on Tuesday to reveal the specific changes that the coalition was planning to demand of the Republican Party in its statement.

“I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the G.OP. [sic] back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.”

Well, that sounds very ambitious and it’s sure to get a little airtime on cable TV, a cursory glance at who might be signing the letter doesn’t indicate that there are any current office-holders who might actually have some sway in the G.O.P. That’s because the current crop of Republicans is in the middle of a purge of anyone who isn’t a True Believer in TFG. So while I have my own reasons for cheering them on faintly, they’re in the cheap seats and have about as much impact on the state of the game being played in Congress as the drunk guy in the bleachers hollering at the umpire.

History has shown time and again that third-party attempts usually cause little more than a ripple rather than a wave, and they have a nasty way of solidifying, if not ossifying, the major parties as they gird themselves against the attack from the outsiders. They also leave behind a legacy of resentment and retrenchment: witness the impact George Wallace had on both the Democrats and Republicans in 1968 with his grudge-run against both Humphrey and Nixon. The Democrats turned left, and the Republicans bought up Wallace’s racist-tinged Southern Strategy and used it artfully with Reagan and clumsily with Trump.

This newest effort will either be a one-hit wonder — show me a viable candidate from this new batch — or it will splinter the party into shards of sectarian factions not unlike what Martin Luther and Henry VIII did to the Roman Catholic church, each proclaiming to be the Real Deal but not changing any minds, all the while ignoring the people they claim to serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Leaving In Droves

From the New York Times:

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the phone lines and websites of local election officials across the country were jumping: Tens of thousands of Republicans were calling or logging on to switch their party affiliations.

In California, more than 33,000 registered Republicans left the party during the three weeks after the Washington riot. In Pennsylvania, more than 12,000 voters left the G.O.P. in the past month, and more than 10,000 Republicans changed their registration in Arizona.

An analysis of January voting records by The New York Times found that nearly 140,000 Republicans had quit the party in 25 states that had readily available data (19 states do not have registration by party). Voting experts said the data indicated a stronger-than-usual flight from a political party after a presidential election, as well as the potential start of a damaging period for G.O.P. registrations as voters recoil from the Capitol violence and its fallout.

O, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Long Division

Regardless of the outcome of the elections today in Georgia, the Republicans are setting their dumpsters on fire that will last long after Trump.

Trump has created a divide in his party as fundamental and impassioned as any during his four years as president, with lawmakers forced to choose between certifying the results of an election decided by their constituents or appeasing the president in an all-but-certain-to-fail crusade to keep him in power by subverting the vote.

As Republican lawmakers took sides ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress to certify the electoral college results, some on Monday voiced rare criticism of Trump for his attempt to pressure Georgia elections officials to change vote totals there during a Saturday phone call, a recording of which was published by The Washington Post.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, said the call was “deeply troubling” and urged all Americans to listen to the hour-long conversation, while Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) condemned it as “a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode.” Even one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), said it was “not a helpful call.”

Trump signaled he had little patience for defections by members of what he dubbed the “Surrender Caucus.” After Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced that he was not joining the band of GOP lawmakers objecting to the electoral college results, Trump attacked Cotton on Twitter and warned that voters would “NEVER FORGET!”

The sycophancy of the Trumpkins (hat tip to George Will) will be the line in the sandbox for the next two election cycles.

On a conference call last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus that, in his 36 Senate years, he has twice cast votes to take the nation to war and once to remove a president, but that the vote he will cast this Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory will be the most important of his career. McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the recklessness of congressional Republicans who are fueling the doubts of a large majority of Republicans about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

The day before McConnell’s somber statement, Missouri’s freshman Republican senator, Josh Hawley, announced that on Wednesday, 14 days before Biden will be inaugurated, he will challenge the validity of Biden’s election. Hawley’s conscience regarding electoral proprieties compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.

Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”

So, allegations in sufficient quantity, although of uniformly risible quality, validate senatorial grandstanding that is designed to deepen today’s widespread delusions and resentments. While Hawley et al. were presenting their last-ditch devotion to President Trump as devotion to electoral integrity, Trump was heard on tape browbeating noncompliant Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes for him. Awkward.


Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) obliquely but scaldingly said of Hawley: “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.” America’s three-party system — Democrats, Hawley-Cruz Republicans, and McConnell-Sasse Republicans — will continue to take shape on Wednesday. Watch how many of these Republican senators who might be seeking reelection in 2022 have the spine to side with the adults against Hawley-Cruz et al. and the Grassy Knollers among their constituents: John Boozman, Richard Burr, Mike Crapo, Charles E. Grassley, John Hoeven, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Richard C. Shelby, John Thune, Todd C. Young. By aligning with Cruz, four — Ron Johnson, John Neely Kennedy, James Lankford and Kelly Loeffler — have reserved their seats at the children’s table.

Hawley, Cruz and company have perhaps rescued Biden from becoming the first president in 32 years to begin his presidency without his party controlling both houses of Congress. On Tuesday, Georgians will decide control of the Senate. While they have been watching Republican attempts to delegitimize Biden’s election (two recounts have confirmed that Georgians favor Biden), Republicans were telling them: a) elections in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, and especially in Georgia, are rigged, but b) the nation’s fate depends on their turning out for Tuesday’s (presumptively) sham run-off Senate elections, lest c) Democrats take control of the Senate and behave badly.

This would all be hilarious and lavished with schadenfreude were it not for the fact that 2,800 people a day are being hospitalized with Covid-19, the distribution of the vaccine by the people “in charge” is on the national scale of Trump throwing paper towels in Puerto Rico, the economy is still struggling to deal with the collapse brought on by the pandemic, and Iran is firing up its centrifuges to enrich more uranium because they can.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Pay No Attention

The Hindenburg is crashing but the GOP wants you to look at the fender-bender in the parking lot.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris is raising the possibility of eliminating private health insurance. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other prominent Democrats are floating new and far-reaching plans to tax the wealthy. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam voiced support for state legislation that would reduce restrictions on late-term abortions.

Democrats, after two years largely spent simply opposing everything President Trump advocated, are defining themselves lately in ways Republicans are seizing on to portray them as far outside the American mainstream.

Casting Democrats as a scary and radical force is giving a fractured Republican Party a common thrust at a time when Trump’s standing even within his own party has started to dip. And it is giving Democrats a bit of the heartburn that Republicans have been grappling with for more than two years.

“There is legitimate concern among Democrats about policy and rhetoric that comes out of the very far left,” said Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Yes, they hurt. It gives Republicans fodder to continue this train of thought that Democrats have become a socialist party. . . . They pounce on anything someone in our party says and make it seem like it represents the whole party.”

Oh for Dog’s sake, Ed.  Stop helping the Republicans.  (He’s famous for that, by the way.  It’s what gets him on cable TV as a Very Serious Commentator.  Plus they pick up his airfare.)

The reality is that after two years of Trump and generations of right-wing nutsery, the progressive movement is gaining real ground not just among Democrats but among the rest of the country as well.  (If you think either Barack Obama or Bill Clinton were card-carrying progressives, you need to recalibrate your Liberal meter.)  Ideas such as Medicare for all, higher taxes on the wealthy, and asylum for immigrants are about as radical as the 1956 Republican platform.  But then, we all knew Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were radical liberals.

It’s also worth noting that the GOP is going after two of the women who have announced for the 2020 presidential race, and their newest fund-raising piñata is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who has the crazy idea of raising the top marginal income tax rate to 70% (which is 21% less than what the Republicans were content with in 1956.  If anything, she’s going too easy on the rich).  But it’s those crazy womenfolk that are going to ruin this country, by gum.  Remember the last time those Dems ran a woman for president?  Look what happened!

This is first in a series of many, many “Democrats in Disarray” articles we’re going to see from the hand-wringers, egged on by the folks in the GOP who are looking for anything to distract our attention away from the disaster in their own laps, and it’s only going to get more strident as the race heats up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ta-Ta For The Tillerson

(Re: Post title — that’s the best I could do on short notice and “REXIT” was already taken by TPM.  Apologies to Cat Stevens.)

Via NBC:

Trump asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to step aside, the White House confirmed Tuesday, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

In a tweet, Trump thanked Tillerson for his service and said Pompeo “will do a fantastic job.”

It really doesn’t matter who Trump puts in there; he/she/it will be a figurehead.  Trump is in charge of everything; presumably Mr. Tillerson didn’t fully grasp that.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Meaning Of Snafu

Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.

Via the New York Times:

Trump stunned Republicans on live television Wednesday by embracing gun control and urging a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation that has been opposed for years by the powerful National Rifle Association and the vast majority of his party.

In a remarkable meeting, the president veered wildly from the N.R.A. playbook in front of giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans. He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict gun sales for some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.

At one point, Mr. Trump suggested that law enforcement authorities should have the power to seize guns from mentally ill people or others who could present a danger without first going to court. “I like taking the guns early,” he said, adding, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

The declarations prompted a frantic series of calls from N.R.A. lobbyists to their allies on Capitol Hill and a statement from the group calling the ideas that Mr. Trump expressed “bad policy.” Republican lawmakers suggested to reporters that they remained opposed to gun control measures.

“We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a statement.

Democrats, too, said they were skeptical that Mr. Trump would follow through.

“The White House can now launch a lobbying campaign to get universal background checks passed, as the president promised in this meeting, or they can sit and do nothing,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

This happens on such a regular basis with this crowd that the only surprise is that the Grey Lady Newspaper of Record is putting it on the front page above the fold.  C’mon, remember how just a little while ago he promised he would protect the DACA kids?  And then there was how he’d be the best friend to the LGBTQ citizens and then peremptorily banned trans soldiers?  Or the time when he said he was the least racist person ever and then defended the neo-Nazis?

It’s no wonder he can’t keep a staff at the White House.  Aside from being unable to get security clearances or finding a lawyer, they have no idea what he’s going to say or if he might do a complete 180 on a policy you’ve spent hours coming up with (or pulling out of your ass) and attack you on Twitter.

Oh, for the record, if Barack Obama had proposed “take the guns first, go through due process second,” the GOP would have impeached him that afternoon with Trump leading the charge.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stop Whining, Move Forward

Josh Marshall is right.

Look at the big picture. Democrats are in the same position they were a week ago. Listen to people talking this morning and you would think that Democrats surrendered on their leverage and a major point of policy and suffered a damaging political blow. Neither is true. Trump’s high-fiving Stephen Miller and talking shit on Twitter doesn’t really matter as anything more than a head game. It’s conventional bully tactics. It doesn’t move votes. It only has an impact to the extent you bring to the table an internal drama about Democratic ‘toughness’ and forget that being in the minority is hard.

Democrats have a bite at this same apple in three weeks. In practice they really haven’t given up anything. They will have the same leverage, face the same decisions in three weeks as they did over this weekend. The big news here is Democrats playing to their same pattern of reflexive self-flagellation, which generally sets one faction against another to no purpose. For those who watch politics constantly and are consumed by internal dramas and squabbles about Democratic ‘toughness’ and bad strategy, this is either a deflating defeat or a confirmation of pre-existing intra-party critiques. Democrats lost. Democrats weak, Trump strong! The reality is that very few people whose opinions of things are not set in stone are even paying attention to the optics of all this. The policy question – settling the Dreamers issue – is very important. But that remains to be decided as much as it was before. Get up, dust yourself off and realize that this is a skirmish in a larger political battle which will come to a head again in three short weeks.

What to think about all this? Think that Democrats are fighting for key policy priorities with virtually no power. That’s not easy. It won’t be accomplished in a day. That’s an honorable position not a shameful one.

More to the point, if Trump calls you a loser, do you believe him?

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.


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.