Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Emulating His Mentor

Via the New York Times:

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Interesting that he had to point out that “it has to do with women,” seeing as how the last time Gaetz was in the news concerned his “adoption” of a teenage Cuban boy.

Last summer, he announced that he had a son, Nestor Galban, 19, though Mr. Gaetz said he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father, nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban had been 12 when they met and had come to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was at the time dating Mr. Galban’s sister.

“He is a part of my family story,” Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Gaetz considers himself to be the next Trump. As far as associating himself with felons and acting like a creep, he’s doing fine.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Nuts To You

Oh, so the Republicans are finally figuring out that they have some whackjobs in their midst.

A growing number of Republicans took sides Tuesday in a brewing House battle over the shape of the GOP after the Donald Trump presidency, amplifying pressure on Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as he decides this week whether to sideline conspiracy theorists and secure a place for anti-Trump voices in party leadership.

Leading the charge was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who made an unusual detour into the other chamber’s affairs by denouncing the extremist rhetoric of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene while offering a gesture of support for Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House GOP leader, who voted last month to impeach Trump.

He was joined Tuesday by several other Republican lawmakers, as well as pillars of the conservative establishment, who together warned that sidelining Trump critics from the party while tolerating purveyors of social-media-driven paranoia would spell long-term disaster — a “cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” as McConnell put it.

Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), a McConnell confidant who recently ended a stint as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Greene “nutty” and “an embarrassment to our party.”

“The people of her congressional district, it’s their prerogative if they want to abase themselves by voting to elect someone who indulges in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and all manner of other nonsense. But I’ve got no tolerance for people like that,” he told reporters. “In terms of the divisions within our party, she’s not even part of the conversation, as far as I’m concerned.”

Funny how they were pretty much silent when she and the others of that ilk, including the Ammosexual from Colorado, Lauren Boebert, were running for office. Trump himself supported them. And it’s not like they haven’t had their share of bug-eyed crazies before, going back to Michele Bachmann, Steve King (the congresscritter from Iowa, not the writer), and Louie “Aspersion Asparagus” Gohmert. Up to now they were happy to let them scream and holler from out in the yard. But now the crazies are at their doorstep and going after them and their friends such as Liz Cheney.

You asked for it, you got it.

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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Will They Blink?

So, blow up the deficit to do what Trump wants, or defy a lame-duck and stiff the poor?  Oh, what a conundrum.

The House on Monday voted to beef up stimulus checks set to go out to American households in the coming weeks from $600 to $2,000. The chamber acted swiftly after President Trump demanded the larger payments last week, but passage of the measure is uncertain because Senate Republicans have not unified behind the idea.

On Sunday, Trump signed into law a $900 billion emergency relief package that included $600 checks. His advisers had advocated for those payments, but Trump later called the check size “measly” and demanded it be increased. After he signed the law, he pledged to continue pushing for the larger payments, something many Democrats also support.

Forty-four Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats on Monday in approving the bill on a 275-to-134 vote — narrowly clearing the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. The measure’s fate is much less certain in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

Approving stimulus checks of $2,000 would cost $464 billion, the Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday. That would be in addition to the $900 billion package Trump signed into law Sunday. Congressional Republicans had sought to keep the total price tag under $1 trillion, but that was before Trump began a fierce effort in the past week to make the stimulus payments larger.

[…]

Since Trump first demanded the larger checks on Dec. 22, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats have tried to push the idea into law. They have ignored his other complaints about the new spending package, however, particularly his calls for reductions in foreign aid and environmental programs.

“It’s not exactly what we would put on the floor if Republicans were in control,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), who supported the larger checks. “But I think it recognizes the fact that [Pelosi is] the speaker and as a Democratic speaker, they’re going to have an input as to what that package is going to look like in regards to the terms and conditions of the direct checks. I’m willing to take half a loaf, and I think the president recognizes that.”

Monday’s vote took place after House Republican leaders blocked an attempt last week to pass the larger checks by unanimous consent in the House. The measure now goes to the Senate, and it is uncertain whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will move to consider it in the closing days of the current Congress. Some Senate Republicans are supportive of larger checks, though. The idea has been championed by Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said he backed larger payments as well.

“I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic,” Rubio wrote on Twitter on Monday. “This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount.”

Rubio is up for re-election in 2022, so anything he can do to balance between sucking up to Trump and attacking the Democrats for the deficit, which all of a sudden becomes The Most Important Thing on January 20.

In a way, you have to spare a little schadenfreude for the Republicans.  They’re dealing with King Lear-like madness and trying to keep an even keel in their own ranks that now include the likes of Qanon believers and the perpetual lunacy of Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Cray-cray) who is now suing Mike Pence for threatening to do his job on January 6.

I will be impressed if the Senate passes the $2,000 check bill and then see how they explain that the Democrats made them do it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Not Welcome At All

The folks in Palm Beach don’t want white trash in their neighborhood.

Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., that he has called his Winter White House, have a message for the outgoing commander in chief: We don’t want you to be our neighbor.

That message was formally delivered Tuesday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

The contretemps sets up a potentially awkward scenario, unique in recent history, in which a former Oval Office occupant would find himself having to officially defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official domicile to Mar-a-Lago, leaving behind Manhattan, where he lived before being elected president and came to fame as a brash, self-promoting developer. (Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.)

In the demand letter, obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for the Mar-a-Lago neighbors says the town should notify Trump that he cannot use Mar-a-Lago as his residence. Making that move would “avoid an embarrassing situation” if the outgoing president moves to the club and later has to be ordered to leave, according to the letter sent on behalf of the neighbors, the DeMoss family, which runs an international missionary foundation.

For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town by refusing to comply with even basic local requirements, such as adhering to height limits for a massive flagpole he installed, and frequently attempting to get out of the promises he had made when he converted Mar-a-Lago into a private club.

“There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club,” said Glenn Zeitz, another nearby Palm Beach homeowner who has joined the fight against Trump and had previously tangled with him over Trump’s attempt to seize a private home to expand his Atlantic City casino. “Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.”

With any luck, he’ll take up residence at some other government housing, well-protected, with walls and guards, and a nice orange jumpsuit to complete his ensemble.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Another Geography Lesson

Other than how to pronounce the name of a national park, Republicans are learning what creek they’re up.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A small but singularly influential group is a driving force for an agreement on a stalled coronavirus relief bill: Endangered Senate GOP incumbents who need to win this fall if Republicans are going to retain control of the majority.

Confronted with a poisonous political environment, vulnerable Senate Republicans are rushing to endorse generous jobless benefits, child care grants, and more than $100 billion to help schools reopen. Several of them are refusing to allow the Senate to adjourn until Washington delivers a deal to their desperate constituents.

Sen. Martha McSally, who has fallen behind in polls in Arizona, is breaking with conservatives to endorse a temporary extension of a $600 per week supplemental benefits. Republicans up for reelection such as John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are demanding results before returning home to campaign. And Sen. Susan Collins is in overdrive, backing help for cash-starved states and local governments — and Maine’s shipbuilding industry.

The opinions of senators up for reelection are of more consequence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than those held by conservatives like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who are broadcasting their opposition to the emerging legislation as costly and ineffective. As other Republicans gripe that they’re going to have to swallow a deal brokered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the vulnerable Republicans are craving just such a bipartisan result.

“Maybe eight Republicans who are up in tough states have a bigger interest in getting this COVID-19 bill done,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I think that’s accurate.”

Republican strategists, grappling with a political environment for their party that has worsened over the summer, said it’s imperative for GOP lawmakers to be able to head back to their states and districts with a deal in hand to show voters they are taking the pandemic and the economic fallout seriously.

“GOP Senate candidates need a deal, a good deal … so they can get home and campaign on helping small businesses get up and moving again,” said Scott Reed, the chief political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Republican operative Corry Bliss said it was crucial for incumbents facing tough re-election fights to “have wins” to highlight through the fall.

As what usually happens when times get desperate and they’re cornered, they are turning on each other; the safe seats willing to stiff the unemployed and the poor in order to cling to some kind of small-government/deficit hawk mantra while their vulnerable colleagues are doing everything they can to cling to power.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Knives Out

As is the case with megalomaniacs, Trump is desperately searching for someone to blame for the skimpy turnout in Tulsa.

Donald Trump’s exhausted trudge from Marine One toward the White House after his botched rally in Tulsa, his red tie undone, a grim look on his face, a crumpled MAGA hat in his hand, is now an iconic image of his presidency. And as always with Trump, he’s already looking for someone to blame. The most obvious candidate, according to sources, is his embattled campaign manager, Brad Parscale. “Brad really shit the bed Saturday night. You have to remember, execution is 95% of presidential politics,” a Republican close to the White House told me over the weekend. Parscale committed a cascade of errors, from overhyping expected turnout to blaming the half-filled arena on protesters. Trump was so furious when he saw how thin the crowd was that he threatened to not go onstage, two sources briefed on the discussions told me. The sources said that Parscale, reading the tea leaves, is planning to step down. “He knows he can’t survive,” one source told me.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Parscale is safe. “Brad is the campaign manager, and he’s the one in charge,” Miller said.

But one thing is for sure: The blame game has shifted into high gear. Trump insiders told me Trump was presented with five options of where to hold his rally. “The president chose Tulsa,” a source said. Sources also told me that if Parscale is forced out, he likely won’t be the only casualty of the rally fiasco. Trump is debating revoking his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s control over the campaign, sources said. As I previously reported, Trump has been frustrated with Kushner’s oversight of the campaign in light of polling that consistently shows Trump losing to Joe Biden. Another source of friction has been campaign spending and reports Trump has gotten that Parscale is making millions of dollars. “Did Jared allow this?” Trump asked advisers recently, according to a source. (Kushner declined to comment.)

One way to measure Kushner’s diminished influence will be found in whom Trump would choose to replace Parscale. Top candidates include 2016 veterans Miller, David Bossie, and Corey Lewandowski, all of whom Kushner successfully kept on the outer fringe of Trumpworld. “We can’t allow Jared’s stupid disagreements to get in the way,” Trump recently told advisers, according to a source briefed on the conversation.

Other Trump insiders are skeptical that Lewandowski would be put in charge of such a vast operation. “Corey was great when it was just Trump and an airplane. But let’s face it, he couldn’t manage a 7-Eleven,” a person close to Trump said. “The serious operation will be run by serious people.”

And of course it’s not his fault that he’s sinking in the polls.  It’s not his message, it’s his managers, it’s the best people that he hired that turned out to be wackos and sick puppies.  It’s the bunker mentality, and the bombs are falling.

If there’s a Campaign Karma, this discombobulated campaign will crater in the same spectacular fashion that Trump’s rallies did in the opposite direction in 2016.  Then he was the insurgent, the outsider, the revolutionary attacking the capital.  Now he’s the incumbent, and the old campaign won’t work anymore.  But he can’t accept that; he’s still running against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Good Morning, Schadenfreude

Kentucky, a state that went 30 points over Clinton for Trump, elects Democrat Andy Beshear as governor, and Virginia flips both state houses to the Democrats.

Washington Post:

Democrats’ claim of victory Tuesday in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president.

Many allies of President Trump rushed to explain away the poor performance of incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) as an anomaly, while other GOP veterans expressed alarm about the party’s failure in a state where Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016 — and where he just campaigned this week.

Although Bevin was controversial and widely disliked, he was also a devotee of the president, embracing Trump’s agenda and his anti-establishment persona. And in the contest’s final days, Bevin sought to cast his candidacy as a bulwark against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of Trump.

And of course Trump made it all about him.  At a rally in Fayette County, which Beshear won by 2 to 1, he screamed, “You’re sending that big message to the rest of the country, it’s so important… Because if you lose it sends a really bad message. And they will build it up. You can’t let that happen to me.”  (Last night, among the rubble, Don Jr told Laura Ingraham that the election had nothing to do with Trump.)

Loser Bevin has yet to concede, claiming there were “irregularities.”  But according to Kentucky law, there are no automatic recounts; the loser has to petition a court, and the court has to grant it.

It’s going to be fun to watch Trump explain this one — as one commenter said, the result won’t be official until Trump tweets something bad about Bevin — and Mitch McConnell, who faces reelection in 2020, has got to be wondering if his carapace will protect him; he’s way behind in polls as of now.

In Virginia, both houses of the state legislature flipped from GOP to Democrat:

Several results were still close after polls closed on the most expensive and most watched Virginia legislative races in years, but Democrats flipped at least two seats in the state Senate and at least five in the House of Delegates to take majorities in both.

And to put a cherry on top:

A legion of reasons propel political neophytes to run for office, but none may be as unusual as what inspired Juli Briskman, the cyclist who gave President Trump the finger two years ago and found herself without a job and at the center of a national uproar.

On Tuesday, Briskman got a new job, winning a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors — ousting a Republican in the process.

“It’s feeling fantastic, it’s feeling surreal,” Briskman, 52, a Democrat, said by telephone as she celebrated her victory. “The last two years have been quite a ride. Now we’re helping to flip Loudoun blue.”

In 2017, Briskman was engaged in a different form of flipping, this one involving her middle finger, which she raised as she rode a bicycle alongside the presidential motorcade as Trump departed his golf club in Sterling.

In Mississippi, Democrat Jim Hood lost his race for governor, but it was comparatively close, and after all, it’s Mississippi.

All in all, it was a great night and hopefully, a harbinger of things to come.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Out In The Open

The House impeachment inquiry is releasing the transcripts that the Republicans were demanding be made public.  Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for.

Republicans have complained for weeks about the secret House impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of rigging the process and interviewing witnesses behind closed doors — at one point storming the hearing room and chanting, “Let us in!”

But inside the secure room in the Capitol basement where the proceedings are taking place, Republicans have used their time to complain that testimony has become public, going after their colleagues who were quoted in media reports commenting on witness appearances, and quizzing witnesses themselves on how their statements had been released.

The efforts by GOP lawmakers to shape the Democrats’ inquiry emerged in full view for the first time Monday with the release of hundreds of pages of transcripts from two early witnesses: Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

At one point, GOP lawmakers held up the questioning of McKinley to complain about a fellow lawmaker, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who had made a public comment about witness testimony the day before.

“Obviously, we’ve talked about confidentiality in here,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Trump ally. “. . . Is that a violation of the House rules?”

The Democrats’ point man on the inquiry, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), demurred, noting that he had told lawmakers not to discuss what happened in the depositions. But Republicans couldn’t let it go.

“I, like my colleague here, share the concerns,” said. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.). “We need clarification on the rules that apply to confidentiality.”

The release of the two transcripts Monday marked a new milestone in the Democrats’ investigation, which has thus far taken place largely out of public view.

The short version is that the Republicans were basically doing everything they could to undermine the credibility of the witnesses — at which they laughingly failed, at one time pondering the origin of Ms. Yovanovitch’s nickname, Masha — to drawing out these bonkers conspiracy theories perpetrated by Sean Hannity and his minions at Fox News.

Depending on your point of view, it’s only going to get better or worse for Trump and his gang of fools.  The more transcripts come out, the more they’re going to reveal that not only was Trump putting the bite on Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden, he was being rather clumsy at it.  And it’s going to make the Republicans in the House who are rabidly defending him look even more like sycophants — if that it possible.

I’m pretty sure by the end of today we’re going to hear the Republicans wondering if the testimony should now be done behind closed doors.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Friday, November 16, 2018

With Friends Like These

According to the Daily Beast, being a fawning suck-up to Trump doesn’t guarantee he’ll return the favor.

Trump’s close relationship—on air and off—with Sean Hannity hasn’t stopped the president from mocking the Fox News star behind his back for being such a suck-up, according to three sources who have independently heard this mockery. These sources asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss private conversations with the president, and in one case also to avoid incurring the ire of Hannity, whom they called a “perfectly nice guy.”

Trump’s many radio and TV interviews, always touted as “exclusives” and rarely making any news, have been widely derided by media critics and political observers as simpering propaganda. And the president himself, a man famous for demanding relentless validation and unwavering loyalty, feels the same way.

Trump has repeatedly—and sometimes for a sustained period of time—made fun of Hannity’s interviewing skills, usually zeroing in on the low-quality laziness of the host’s questions, the three people with direct knowledge tell The Daily Beast.

“It’s like he’s not even trying,” Trump has said, one source recalled, right before the president launched into a rough imitation of Hannity’s voice and mannerisms to complain that the questions about how “great I am” give him nothing to work or have fun with.

No real surprise here; Trump doesn’t have any real friends other than that swell guy he sees in the mirror.  It’s pretty obvious that he treats even the members of his own family as if they were partners in a business deal.

Not that it matters, but it will be a major dose of schadenfreude when the wheels finally come off Trump’s wagon and he’s either indicted or carted off under sedation and no one will stand by him.  He’ll be all alone and railing against how everyone has turned against him.  Well, boo-hoo.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Retort

I think the last Washington insider book that I bought and read was John Dean’s “Blind Ambition” that depicted this role in Watergate.  So I probably won’t read James Comey’s forthcoming tome, “A Higher Loyalty,” in which the fired FBI director recalls his brief time in the Trump administration.  But it must be a page-turner the way the right-wing media and the White House is laying into it.

The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.

“Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to CNN. “If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we’ll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility.”

While it’s an open question how successful Republicans will be in making their case against Comey, given that Trump unceremoniously dismissed him last May 9, there is no doubt that many Democrats remain furious at how the former FBI director treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

If the RNC and the White House wanted to suppress book sales and discredit Mr. Comey, they would ignore it or say nothing more than “Well, he’s entitled to his opinion” and let it be.  But giving the campaign to discredit him its own website?  Sales of the book are going to go through the roof.

The biggest question now will be, where will they find an actor who’s 6’8″ to play Comey in the HBO version?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Popcorn Futures Are Way Up

Nothing gets the schadenfreude going like a good schoolyard fight between two raging egos.

Trump on Wednesday castigated his former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon as a self-aggrandizing political charlatan who has “lost his mind,” marking an abrupt and furious rupture with the onetime confidant that could have lasting political impact on the November midterms and beyond.

The White House’s sharp public break with Bannon, which came in response to unflattering comments Bannon made about Trump and his family in a new book about his presidency, left the self-fashioned populist alienated from his chief patron and even more isolated in his attempts to remake the Republican Party by backing insurgent candidates.

Late Wednesday, lawyers for Trump sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon, arguing he violated the employment agreement he signed with the Trump Organization in numerous ways and also likely defamed the president. They ordered that he stop communicating either confidential and or disparaging information, and preserve all records in preparation for “imminent” legal action.

“You have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company,” read the letter from lawyer Charles Harder.

In a lengthy statement issued in the afternoon, Trump blamed Bannon — his former campaign manager and chief strategist who now heads the conservative Breitbart News website — for everything from leaks to the news media to the upset GOP loss in last month’s Senate race in Alabama. The president cast Bannon as a disgruntled former staffer whose chief goal is to stir up trouble.

President Trump congratulates chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staffers at the White House last January. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

The White House also released a statement from the first lady’s office condemning the forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff as a title to be found in the “bargain fiction” bin, while the Republican National Committee said Wolff has “a long history of making stuff up.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, devoted much of her Wednesday news briefing Wednesday to disputing Wolff’s claims and seeking to undermine Bannon’s credibility.

The response was a marked departure from mid-October, when Trump called Bannon “a friend of mine” and said he understood his perspective.

But the much anticipated account of life in Trump’s White House caught the president and his West Wing team off-guard, with the president huddling with White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of his most trusted advisers, and Sanders to craft the fiery statement, after calling friends for much of the morning. Aides thought they had more time to prepare for the book’s formal release.

Trump spent much of the day raging about the book to top aides, officials and advisers said, and Sanders described the president as “furious” and “disgusted.” As he fumed, some aides were still frantically searching for a copy of the book, and even senior aides such as Hicks had not seen it by the afternoon, officials said.

“He’s out of control,” one person with knowledge of Trump’s comments said. This person added that the president had been in an upbeat mood for much of Tuesday, continuing to brag about last month’s passage of the Republican tax bill even as he fired off combative tweets.

New York magazine has an excerpt from the book in which Trump never expected to win the election and was stunned — like the rest of us — when he actually did.

Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” ­Flynn assured them.

Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.

And that’s when the smiles turn into fixed grins as is the realization that we’ve got someone who has no more business running the country than a six-year-old does driving a semi.  Nothing’s going to get him to let go of the wheel voluntarily even if we’re heading for a cliff.  And what this will do to relationships with the rest of the world is scary because even once Trump leaves office, our allies are going to be wary of a country that would elect someone like him to office after the presumed maturity of electing Barack Obama.  Can we be trusted not to go batshit crazy again?

So enjoy the infighting while we can, but remember that we have a country to run and a world to keep safe.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

They Deserve Each Other

Not only is Trump giving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a tough time at home, they just don’t like each other.

Via the New York Times:

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.

The rupture between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is scant room for legislative error on any front.

[…]

In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, and berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.

During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.

This is karma with cheese.  McConnell spent the previous eight years plotting how to get rid of Barack Obama and put a Republican in the White House so he could have smooth sailing to screw over the country and bask in the sunshine like a turtle on a log.  So along comes Trump and his entourage of gators.  At least President Obama was polite.

As for Trump, he’s learning what every president finds out much to their chagrin: you can’t always get your way even when your party is in charge.

Would you like some popcorn to go along with that heaping helping of schadenfreude?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Once More, They Failed

Via the Washington Post:

Senate Republicans suffered a dramatic failure early Friday in their bid to advance a scaled-back plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, throwing into question whether they can actually repeal the 2010 health law.

Their latest effort to redraw the ACA failed after Sen. John McCain’s decision to side with two other Republicans against President Trump and GOP leaders. The Arizona Republican, diagnosed with brain cancer last week, returned to Washington on Tuesday and delivered a stirring address calling for a bipartisan approach to overhauling the ACA, while criticizing the process that produced the current legislation.

It was a speech that laid the groundwork for Friday’s dramatic vote.

The vote was 49 to 51 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus joined with McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to block the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had hoped to approve the new, narrower rewrite of the health law at some point Friday, after facing dozens of amendments from Democrats. But the GOP defections left McConnell without a clear path forward.

“Our only regret is that we didn’t achieve what we hoped to accomplish,” McConnell said after the failed vote. In a dejected tone, he pulled the entire legislation from consideration and set up votes on nominations that will begin Monday.

“It is time to move on,” McConnell said, culminating a nearly 75-minute set of roll calls. In a last-minute rescue bid, Vice President Pence — there to be the tie-breaking vote if needed — stood at McCain’s desk for 21 minutes cajoling the senator to no avail.

McCain and Pence then walked to the Republican cloak room to confer in private and later to the lobby off the Senate chamber. When McCain returned — without Pence — he stopped in the well of the chamber, cast his “no” vote — sparking stunned gasps and some applause — and returned to his seat.

McConnell and his leadership deputies stood watching, grim-faced and despondent.

Thank you, Sens. Murkowski and Collins.  A little bit of Shakespearean irony in the face of the pussy-grabber.  Oh, and Sen. McCain, thank you, too, but it all could have been avoided if you had voted No earlier this week.  But I guess we all need a little Thursday night/Friday morning drama, right?

As for Mitch McConnell, you earned the grim-face and despondency.  Get used to it, you tortoise-faced putz.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Good Question, Rush

I had forgotten that Rush Limbaugh is still out there.  But he is, and it sounds like he’s turning on Trump.

In the process, sanctuary cities are continually funded. Obamacare is not repealed nor is it replaced. The White House is saying that they’re very close to having enough votes in the House to actually move forward on Obamacare. But until we see the vote, we will know they don’t have the votes. They’re not gonna conduct a vote ’til they have them. So Obamacare gets funded. Sanctuary cities get funded. The EPA gets funded through September. Planned Parenthood gets funded. The wall does not. So if you’re asking yourself, “Why am I voting Republican?” you have a good question.

Why is anybody voting Republican, if this is what happens when we win?

We won the House, we won the Senate, we won the White House, and the Democrats thwarted everything we supposedly said we were going to do with our victory.

He’s so surprised that the Democrats learned something from the Republicans.  Funny how that works.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Art Of The Dud

Heh.

They blinked.

In a major setback for the Republicans’ years-long effort to repeal Obamacare, GOP leaders were forced to delay a House vote planned for Thursday as negotiations continued around the legislation. The delay comes after the conservative hardliners who have been resisting the legislation emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump with no clear deal to win over their votes.

According to various reports, the floor vote on the American Health Care Act will be pushed until at least Friday, with a meeting with the full House GOP conference slated for Thursday evening, followed by a procedural vote to make way for the final bill.

As the White House negotiated Thursday with members of the conservative hardline House Freedom Caucus, more and more members of Republicans’ moderate flank came out of the woodwork to say they oppose the repeal bill due to the rightward direction in which it was heading.

The Republicans have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, and according to Himself, he’s the greatest deal-maker in history.  They have been talking about repealing Obamacare for exactly seven years since the day it was signed into law and they can’t even get their own right-wing to fall in line.

And when they do, the Senate will take one look at it, hear the hoofbeats of ten thousand Democrats ready to run against each and every one of them who voted to take back everything that everyone — even Trump voters — like about Obamacare and say Are You Fucking Kidding Me and run away from it like it was a toddler with a paint gun.

Oh, and when this miserable excuse for legislation finally screws itself into the ground, guess who they’re going to blame: Yep, you got it.  Obama.

Go on, have an extra helping of schadenfreude.  They’ll make more.