Thursday, June 21, 2018


I'll be away from blogging until Monday, but members of the relief crew will be here, so stop by.


Steve Benen seems puzzled by something President Trump said last night in his Duluth campaign rally:
... towards the end of his speech, the Republican shared a thought I haven’t heard him make before.
“You ever notice they always call the other side ‘the elite.’ The elite! Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
For a quite a while, prominent voices in Trump World considered “the elite” to be their rivals, and perhaps even their enemies.

... in the [2016] Time cover story naming Trump “Person of the Year,” [Kellyanne] Conway argued, “You cannot underestimate the role of the backlash against political correctness – the us vs. the elite.”

In this sense, the “elite” doesn’t describe wealth or status; it describes attitude. The “elite” care about niceties such as science, diversity, and the rule of law. Trump and his acolytes thumb their nose at the “elite” and their pointless principles.

... as of last night, Trump isn’t satisfied with this dynamic – because he wants to be the elite, too.

... Since launching his political career three years ago, Trump has laughably presented himself as a “man of the people,” but now he wants more. The president also sees himself as more elite than the elite, and he expects to be appreciated as such.
I don't think that quite captures what's going on. All along, Trump's followers have hated the "elites," and all along they've known that Trump is a rich One Percenter -- in fact, since they believe everything he says, they probably think he's richer than he actually is.

It's not surprising if they hate "elitists" while believing that Trump, whom they love, is one himself. They don't like black people, but they like their black people -- Ben Carson, Candace Owens, maybe Kanye West. They don't like Hollywood celebrities, but they like their celebrities, starting with their other favorite president, Ronald Reagan. (See also James Woods and Scott Baio.) They don't like gay people, but they like their gay people -- Milo Yiannopoulos, Tammy Bruce, Jim Hoft.

Also, they believe that people on their side aren't recognized as the superior beings they are, while people on our side are given way too much credit for being superior. I recall a widespread belief on the right during the 2012 campaign that Newt Gingrich was much smarter, much better educated, and a much better debater than Barack Obama, and that he'd be the runaway winner if he ever had the chance to debate Obama. Reporting from the campaign trail, Dave Weigel wrote this:
After a while, the only differences between [Gingrich supporters'] endorsements were the verbs they used to describe what Gingrich would do to Barack Obama in debates.

In Charleston, [South Carolina,] a voter named Jayne Harmon claimed that Gingrich would “dismantle” the president.

In Monck’s Corner, I learned that Gingrich would “humiliate” him. 

In Columbia, I was told that Obama would be “lacerated” or “annihilated.” When Gingrich spoke, and repeated his promise to challenge Obama to seven debates, a biker named Vincent Sbraccia hoisted his sign and screamed: “Wipe the floor with him! Wipe the floor with him!”

A lot of these people considered Gingrich a genius, or at least a first-class intellectual.... [Mitt] Romney, who recites America the Beautiful in his campaign speeches, didn’t convince them that he hated “the elites.” Gingrich did. He’d outdebate Obama because he didn’t accept the notion that Obama was a competent, eloquent president. They didn’t accept it, either.
Trump is thinking along similar lines: The "elite" class as it's defined now is bad not because there's anything wrong with elitism, but because the wrong people are considered elite. In a better world, elite status would go to people who deserve it. Six years ago, the established elite failed to recognize Gingrich's obvious intellectual elitism. Since 2015, according to Trump, they've made the same mistake about Trump's all-around elitism. Trump wants to join this club that won't accept him as a member -- and probably wants to kick all the current members out.


New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, writing with his colleague Katie Rogers, tells us it's distressing that people are so darn uncivil these days -- and while Baker and Rogers blame Trump for the problem, they say it's now the fault of (of course) both sides:
Mr. Trump’s coarse discourse increasingly seems to inspire opponents to respond with vituperative words of their own. Whether it be Robert De Niro’s four-letter condemnation at the Tony Awards or a congressional intern who shouted the same word at Mr. Trump when he visited the Capitol this week, the president has generated so much anger among his foes that some are crossing boundaries that he himself shattered long ago....

Mr. Trump’s presidency has driven some of those who oppose him to extremes of their own. Kathy Griffin, the comedian, was fired after posing for a picture in which she seemed to be holding Mr. Trump’s decapitated head. Samantha Bee, another comic, apologized for using a crude term to describe Ivanka Trump.
Yes, yes, and Peter Fonda posted nasty tweets. But here's the thing: None of these people have political power. Nor do the politicians they prefer have any power in Washington. The problem isn't the discourse -- it's the cruelty of the policies.

From his post at the media desk, James Poniewozik, Baker and Rogers's Times colleague, writes about harsh rhetoric -- but he focuses on talk meant to buttress what the people in power are doing.
We now know the sound it makes when human decency dies on live cable news:

“Womp womp.”

That was the sound that the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski made Tuesday night during a Fox News segment on the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant parents from their children at the border. He made it when a Democratic strategist, Zac Petkanas, told the story of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother in Texas.

Womp womp. You may know the noise by the name “sad trombone” — a horn sound you use to mock a sob story. It’s a kind of trolling. And trolling is what Mr. Lewandowski gets booked on TV to do, this time by Fox, in the past by CNN. He’s the guy you can count on to taunt and revile the president’s enemies or perceived enemies.

This time, the enemy was a disabled girl....

The kind of attack Mr. Lewandowski used — delegitimizing your opponents’ emotions — is a troll’s favorite tool, and it’s especially beloved on the Trumpian right. Opponents who feel badly about things are “snowflakes.” They’re “virtue signaling.” Their emotion is weak, you suggest, or it’s feigned, or it’s unhinged.
Poniewozik also quotes the rhetoric of Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter. His point is that these people want to discredit the real emotions engendered by family separation, and that this time they failed.

I'm sorry he doesn't make the point that all of these people have had the president's ear -- Lewandowski, the former campaign head, is now an outside adviser to Trump, and Coulter has been an adviser as well, while Ingraham was seriously considered for the job of White House press secretary. Their words reinforce what the people in power are doing -- and they also reach the president, who avidly watches his own cheerleaders on TV. If these people are uncivil, it matters more, because they're acting as force multipliers for the powerful, with the intent of afflicting the afflicted.

I'm not saying that Poniewozik's column is the best writing ever on this subject -- but he avoids bothsidesism and other pitfalls. Maybe the Times would be a better news source if he were moved out of the media slot. There's certainly a lot at the paper that needs improving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


These are the most depressing poll results I've seen in a while, even though the Democrats seem to be doing reasonably well in the poll:
A Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday shows far greater engagement in this year’s elections among both Democrats and Republicans than in the 2014 midterms. The Democratic wave is building: Voters who say they intend to support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district are far more enthusiastic than in the two midterm elections under President Barack Obama — they’re even more enthusiastic than at this point in the Democratic landslide year of 2006.

But this year's Democratic wave may be crashing against a well-fortified GOP wall. Enthusiasm among Republicans about voting is higher now than before almost every midterm election going back to 1994 — the only exception was June 2010, just before a GOP wave netted the party 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives.

... Democrats are slightly more enthusiastic than Republicans: 55 percent of voters who say they intend to vote for the Democratic candidate in their district say they are more enthusiastic than usual, compared with 50 percent of Republican voters.

But the gap between supporters of each party is smaller than in recent elections. In June 2006, 47 percent of Democratic voters expressed enthusiasm, compared with 30 percent of Republican voters. In June 2010, voters backing Republicans were 13 percentage points higher on this question than those supporting Democrats.

... Despite the focus on Trump and his low approval ratings — just 40 percent among Americans in the new Pew survey — the poll suggests he may not be the drag on his party that Obama was in 2010, or George W. Bush was in 2006.

More than one-quarter of voters, 26 percent, say they think of their vote for Congress as a vote for Trump — greater than for any president since Bush in the 2002 midterms....
This is just one poll, and it was conducted before family separation became the biggest story in America -- but it's a poll from Pew, a firm that does a good, thorough job. If it's accurate, it means that Donald Trump's vengefulness, chest-thumping, trash-talking, and gleeful hostility toward decency and norms are all working electorally, even if they're not working in any other way. Robert Mueller isn't going away, the stock market is reacting to Trump's trade war with anxiety, and the public was appalled by family separation. But if all Trump really cares about is winning the midterms, it may not matter whether he's winning on any other front -- he's successfully rallying the base, and that's all that matters.

Trump holding a campaign rally tonight in Duluth, Minnesota. He's there because he wants to be visibly on offense at all times. On offense, but also aggrieved: He can tell the deplorables that the events of the past few days prove that he's under siege and they have to turn out to crush his enemies -- basically the same message he regularly delivers on the Russia investigation. Pew says this is working.

We have to beat the Republicans. Democratic enthusiasm is high, but it needs to be higher. The Trumpers have loved the last seventeen months. They're ready to vote for more of the same.


What the White House has announced today will result in much longer incarceration of children, albeit with their parents, but it's a concession of sorts:
President Trump is preparing to issue an executive order as soon as Wednesday that ends the separation of families at the border by indefinitely detaining parents and children together, according to a person familiar with the White House plans.

Mr. Trump’s executive order would seek to get around an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.
Most of the Trump absolutists in the Gateway Pundit comments are as angry as you'd expect -- but a lot of them seem more disgusted by us than they are by the detainees. They may be racists, but their hatred for us equals their hatred for non-whites, at minimum:
Democrats are worse than our foreign enemies.


I have never detested anything like I detest the leftists.


I second that! SO SO thankful Trump is our president. I cannot grasp the depth of liberal insanity , but I do realize it is all about hatred, violence and intimidation.


I third that. I told a friend of mine yesterday, I am ashamed of what America has become because of them.


And manipulation of people's minds and feelings.


Many ARE foreign enemies


... he has to shut these crazies up for the time being.


I get that that's his intention, but he is naive and gullible to think as I said above in a comment, that anything short of fully rolling out the red carpet to allow every single person from every country in the world into this country is going to satisfy them.

Nothing short of complete surrender and wide open borders is ever going to satisfy them because there is no way for them to get their long desired permanent majority without importing millions of new voters.

Do we still not understand but the Democrat Party is all about?


don't think of it as caving. What he's actually doing is ripping the Left's false narrative right out of their hands. And the plan says keeping children together with parents. DHS Secretary told us that 10,000 of 12,000 children currently being cared for came alone or with adults who were not their parent. The Left only wants a talking point to flog the President with day after day and to keep people's minds off the FBI/DOJ news and any news that will help GOP in November. They don't care about the children, they only want more illegals in the country to vote for them. By doing an executive action to address this issue, the President shows he is willing to do something about the problem... unlike the Dems. I'll reserve further comment until I see what is actually done, but right now it looks like a brilliant move.


He needs to do something b/c he is getting pummeled on this issue. I know the Democrat cult is completely lying about this issue, but like it or not, they've been successful in hurting Trump.


Most Republicans will not defend their own. On the other hand, Democrats will circle the wagons for one of their own even if he/she raped and murdered people.


t is difficult to fight back when you cannot get your message out because 90 percent of the media is against you. Sure the President Tweets, but there needs to be Congressmen and Senators speaking out on something besides Fox News, and it just isn't happening. Billy Bob in Iowa only gets to hear what the Leftist media spews; and he probably doesn't do a lot of Internet research on political stuff, so he believes what he hears and sees. It is tough.


Ehh... let's not think we have to go down the road of "he has to do something!" That's the Democrats famous and favorite line. It always leads to disaster.


No matter what he does; Liberals are interested in only one thing: to get him out of office; they will probably criticize him by saying what took him so long or it's not enough. He will never win with those delusional, dishonest, hateful people.


Then it will be on to the next non-existent crisis of the week.


They want globalism. No borders, no country, no flag, no constitution, no civil rights.


And the globalist open borders crowd are using those libs, most of whom are young, stupid, college aged kids.


Which is why Trump should not be doing this. We have nothing to gain we will get 0 credit or appreciation, and we have plenty to lose.


Stay strong President Trump. Don't go wobbly now.

Normal Americans know the truth, ... Dems use children as a political pawns.


Also the millionaire reporters that won't be giving a spare bedroom to the unaccompanied ones. It breaks their hearts what happens with these kids they'll never help.


Somehow it's President Trump's problems that ILLEGALS put their children in peril. These illegals are already Democrats.
They hate the immigrants, but they hate us, too. It's hard to say which group they hate more.


Forgive me if I'm not impressed by celebrities affiliated with the entertainment side of Fox who are now criticizing Fox News:
Steve Levitan, the creator of “Modern Family,” which airs on ABC but is produced by Fox’s television studio, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he was “disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with @FoxNews.” The film director Paul Feig echoed those sentiments, writing that he had made two films for the 20th Century Fox movie studio but “cannot condone the support their news division promotes toward the immoral and abusive policies and actions taken by this current administration toward immigrant children.”

Those tweets came several days after Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy,” said he was “embarrassed” to work at 21st Century Fox after the Fox News host Tucker Carlson told viewers not to trust other news networks.
Nice of you to speak up, guys, but it's a lot safer for you to do this now than it was when you signed your deals:
Both The Walt Disney Company and Comcast are bidding tens of billions of dollars for control of most of the entertainment assets owned by Rupert Murdoch. Fox News would not be part of either sale, and would remain under Murdoch control.

But with the Fox entertainment empire on the brink of being severed from the Murdochs, there appeared to be a newfound willingness to take on Fox News....
So now you have the courage to say something. Why didn't you say anything when Fox became a welcoming place for birthers, including Donald Trump? Or when Fox's Glenn Beck was calling President Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people"? Or when Bill O'Reilly said that the slaves who built the White House were "well fed and had decent lodgings"? Or when Megyn Kelly produced a series of racist broadcasts, fearmongering about a tiny group of activists called the New Black Panthers and claiming that Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were white? Or when Fox commentators regularly defended waterboarding? And I'm just scratching the surface.

Celebrities should have boycotted Fox years ago. We all should have. The whole thing -- The Simpsons, the sports, FX, the movie studio. When one of the more appalling outrages happened, we should have refused to show up for the opening weekend of the next big Fox tentpole blockbuster. Yes, even the ones we'd been waiting to see for months.

Celebrities certainly had the power to reject Fox. They wouldn't do it until now. I give them no credit for principle now.


Nor am I impressed by this guy:
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt ... renounced his membership in the Republican Party over the continuing abuses of President Donald Trump....

“This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of Humanity in our history,” Schmidt said. “It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families. It is immoral and must be repudiated. Our country is in trouble. Our politics are badly broken.

“The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities,” he added.
What took so long? Previous abuses of human rights -- like secret torture prisons during the Iraq War -- didn't bother Schmidt? Oh, wait -- he was an aide top Vice President Dick Cheney. He was the man who pressed John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though he later denounced her. I guess nothing up till now -- Palin's demagoguery, Trump's demagoguery, the party's rejection of climate science and voting rights, the bad-faith efforts to increase inequality and run up debts so government social programs can be slashed -- upset him enough to make him want to leave.

Why this now? Schmidt has been a Republican strategist, and he probably believed he might someday be one again, despite his denunciations of Trumpism over the last couple of years. But the defeat of Mark Sanford in a primary last week and a recent poll showing that Trump is the most popular president ever among Republican voters at this stage of his presidency, with the exception of a post-9/11 George W. Bush, has demonstrated to Schmidt that he's highly unlikely ever to get a job with a GOP candidate again. Prior to this, he probably thought it was risky for him to leave the party. Now he knows he has nothing to lose.

So thanks, all of you. Where were you years ago, when the direction of the GOP and its propaganda arm were obvious, and all this might have been prevented?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


The Atlantic's McKay Coppins tells us that Trump aide Stephen Miller thinks the administration's brutal family separation policy is excellent politics:
... it should be understood that Miller’s hardline approach to immigration predates his work for Trump. In 2013, as an aide to then-Senator Jeff Sessions, Miller made his name on Capitol Hill fighting ferociously against a bipartisan immigration-reform bill....

But when we talked, Miller also made it clear to me that he sees immigration as a winning political issue for his boss.

“The American people were warned—let me [be] sarcastic when I remark on that—[they] were quote-unquote warned by Hillary Clinton that if they elected Donald Trump, he would enforce an extremely tough immigration policy, crack down on illegal immigration, deport people who were here illegally, improve our vetting and screening, and all these other things,” Miller told me. “And many people replied to that by voting for Donald Trump.”

... Speaking to The New York Times, Miller framed his theory this way: “You have one party that’s in favor of open borders, and you have one party that wants to secure the border. And all day long the American people are going to side with the party that wants to secure the border. And not by a little bit. Not 55–45. 60–40. 70–30. 80–20. I’m talking 90–10 on that.”
The New Republic's Jeet Heer believes that Trump and Miller are motivated much more by racism than by political considerations:
Trump and Miller might think this is smart politics but The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board strongly disagrees. In a Tuesday editorial they warn that the GOP’s “internal feuding over immigration that is fast becoming an election-year nightmare over separating immigrant children from their parents.” FiveThirtyEight shares this assessment, noting that the family separation policy “is generating widespread opposition, even from people who have traditionally been allies of the president. It has forced the administration to defend an approach that polls terribly....”

... It’s a mistake, though, to look at the Trump White House’s actions through the narrow prism of electoral politics. Figures like Trump Miller have genuine ideological convictions, which also shape what they think a winning political strategy should be.

Vox writer Matt Yglesias offers a clear cut way to think about this issue....

Obviously Miller is a racist, and Trump has been a racist since before Miller was born. But I think they also believe that 2016 proves they're the greatest electoral geniuses in America. Beating the experts that year means to them that every time the experts say they're making a mistake they must be doing something right. Bad polling means that they're winning, because the polls said they were going to lose two years ago.

Of course, the polls actually weren't far off in 2016 -- the final Real Clear Politics average showed Clinton beating Trump by 3.2%, and she beat him in the popular vote by 2.1%. Just before the election, Nate Silver warned that Trump might win the Electoral College even as Clinton won the popular vote.

Trump beat a candidate who wasn't a natural campaigner (or, like him, an experienced media performer) and who was hammered by the mainstream media as well as the right throughout the campaign, particularly on the subject of emails. Trump got favors from James Comey and Vladimir Putin. Trump got billions of dollars of free airtime from cable news outlets. Trump benefited from vote suppression in Republican states. And still he barely won.

Trump doesn't think 2016 was a fluke. Trump thinks it was a formula: Whenever you're polling badly, you're going to win. Whenever the media coverage is bad, it's good.

And Miller lives in an epistemically closed right-wing world where, yes, it probably does seem as if wailing Latin American children in cages poll at 90% approval, because it's probably been years since he had a conversation with anyone who doesn't approve of that sort of thing.

And Trump just watches Fox News, where he's told he can do no wrong. So, yes, they're stone-cold racists, but I think they really believe this is brilliant politics.


In today's column, David Brooks makes a "no true Scotsman" argument about conservatives and immigration.
... this administration ... is not populated by conservatives. It is populated by anti-liberal trolls. There’s a difference.

People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. Their primary orientation is not to conservative governance but to owning the libs. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends.
Brooks says we can identify the fake conservatives by their use of language:
Here’s how you can detect the anti-liberal trolls in the immigration debate: Watch how they use the word “amnesty.” Immigration is a complex issue. Any serious reform has to grapple with tangled realities, and any real conservative has an appreciation for that complexity. But if you try to account for that complexity before an anti-immigration troll, he or she will shout one word: Amnesty!

Maybe we should find some arrangement for the Dreamers? Amnesty! The so-called moderate House immigration bill? Amnesty! Keeping families together? Amnesty!

This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.
The implication is that conservatives have always favored some sort of immigration reform, and people who denounce any reform effort as "amnesty" are fake conservatives, a new breed who've come to dominate conservatism only in the Trump era.

If that's the case, I'm not sure why, when the Bush administration's immigration bill died in the Senate in 2007, 37 Republicans voted against it and only 12 voted in favor. Surely those 37 couldn't all have been fake conservatives, right?

And shouts of "Amnesty"? They're not new. Here was then-congressman Mike Pence in 2006, trying to get to the right of President Bush, as described by Time magazine:
Pence, a rising star in the House, is suggesting a temporary worker program based on a database run by private industry. And unlike the leading plan in the Senate and the blueprint sketched by Bush, his "Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act" would require all applicants to leave the country first.... Even though Bush has said his preferred solution "ain't amnesty," Pence appeals to hard-liners by calling the compromise a "no-amnesty solution."
Here was the reaction at Free Republic:
This is 100% amnesty. The main difference between Bush amnesty and Pence amnesty is that with Pence amnesty, the taxpayer gets to pay for a bus ride to a Mexican Border town.
Here was North Carolina congressman Patrick McHenry's take on the issue:
Amnesty is not the answer. To grant amnesty to these trespassers is to say "You crossed our borders illegally, you broke our laws and now we are rewarding you with U.S. citizenship – congratulations!" This is unacceptable; it undermines our legal system and calls into question the very rules and regulations that bind together a civil society.

A guest worker program is nothing more than amnesty wearing make-up – it's easier to look at, but just as ugly underneath.
Here was Human Events blogger Larry Kelley as immigration reform was being considered in 2006:
Congress now piously debates an amnesty bill, U.S. cities brace for more marches promoted by Spanish-language radio stations, and Marxists and anarchists wish to see more and more illegals have a claim on your family assets.

It’s chilling to remember that it was our ancestors’ embrace of amnesty that served to bring down the Western Roman Empire. On August 24, 410 A.D., the Roman general, Alaric, and his collection of German tribesman, Herulians, Rugians, and Gepidae, sacked Rome for the first time in 800 years. The event shocked the civilized world. These very same Goths had previously destroyed a whole legion, killing the Emperor Valens at Adrianople but were given amnesty, were hired and armed as Roman mercenaries, their families given lands inside the empire, and their general/king awarded Rome’s highest citizen status, patrician.

... While our obsequious Nero-like Congress openly debates the merits of amnesty programs, they dramatically amplify the invasion, undermine the prevailing American culture, and threaten American security and sovereignty.
As the bill was about to fail in 2007, National Review -- which I think we can all agree is a conservative publication -- gave column inches to anti-immigrant activist Mark Krikorian, who denounced existing immigration law as "amnesty," and warned that immigration reform is dangerous "amnesty":
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that our “legal” immigration system is a permanent rolling amnesty for illegal aliens.

... when you amnesty an uneducated illegal alien with a large family, all you do is turn him into an uneducated legal alien with a large family — his earnings, and thus his tax payments, do indeed go up somewhat, but his use of government services increases much, much more because now he’s legal, but he’s still uneducated.
And a couple of months after the Bush bill failed, there was Kris Kobach -- yes, that Kris Kobach -- publishing a report for the Heritage Society titled "A Sleeper Amnesty: Time to Wake Up from the DREAM Act." Remember, this was at a time when Heritage was considered a respectable conservative organization, years before Jim DeMint took it further to the right.

It can't be true that all of these people were fake conservatives, can it, David?


UPDATE: Driftglass has much more.

As does Yastreblyansky.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Trump administration's practice of taking undocumented immigrant children from their families and putting them in government facilities on US borders, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Only 28% approve.

But among Republicans, there is majority support for the policy....
American voters oppose 66 - 27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border into America, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.

Republican voters support the separation policy 55 - 35 percent, the only listed party, gender, education, age or racial group to support it....
I say this all the time: America is not primarily a conservative heartland that's besieged by a left-leaning minority living on the coasts and using elite status to tyrannize the majority. The major fault line in this country is between Republicans and everyone else in America. I'm not saying that this is a liberal country (although it is on a number of issues), but it is not a conservative country. Republican dominance of our government at the federal and state levels is largely an artifact of electoral gamesmanship and a highly effective conservative propaganda machine that successfully demonizes Democrats; it doesn't reflect majority support for Republican policies. The GOP takes advantage of splits among the rest of us -- conservative/moderate, Democrat/independent, voter/non-voter -- to maintain control of America. The GOP also guilt-trips the media into believing that heartland whites are the only true Americans. But Republicans are the outliers.


Salena Zito has made a nice life for herself purporting to be the person who can explain Trump voters to so-called out-of-touch elitists. We learn from a New York Post column she published over the weekend that she's guilt-tripped Harvard into letting her run a program along these lines:
We were only a few days into a new course I had developed with Harvard’s Institute of Politics, called the Main Street Project, where students are immersed in small-town America. Even though these kids had almost all been raised in the United States, our journey sometimes felt like an anthropology course, as though they were seeing the rest of the country for the first time.
The first stop on this "journey" for Zito and her kids was Chicopee, Massachusetts, where she played tour guide:
On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.

The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.

As they settled in, I looked at them.

“So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”

None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person whom they’d voted for.

So I let a minute pass and told them.

“Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”

My students at first looked stunned. But then recognition crossed their faces.
Do you know how Chicopee actually voted in 2016? Here are the numbers:
Hillary Clinton 12,332 (52.1%)
Donald Trump 9,837 (41.5%)
Gary Johnson 1,046 (4.4%)
Jill Stein 472 (2%)
Clinton beat Trump by double digits in Chicopee, and 58.5% of its voters voted against Trump. So either Zito is lying about the people she introduced to her students or she chose an unrepresentative sample of Chicopee's population. (The latter is probably correct. Cops? Firefighters? Small business owners? The Republican mayor? That's not a real cross-section of the town -- it's a cross-section of the town's authority figures, but not of the town as a whole.)

Zito lives by some peculiar rules:
I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels.

And definitely no chain restaurants.

The reason is simple: Planes fly over and interstates swiftly pass by what’s really happening in the suburbs, towns and exurbs of this nation. Staying in a hotel doesn’t give me the same connection I can get staying in a bed and breakfast where the first person I meet is a small-businessperson who runs the place and knows all the neighborhood secrets. The same is true of going to locally owned restaurants versus chains.
I get the rule about planes and interstates -- but no hotels? I can understand wanting to avoid luxury lodgings, but what's Zito afraid she'll miss if she stays in a small hotel or motel?

Is she afraid she'll talk to people who aren't native-born whites? After all...
Indian immigrants and their children make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they own roughly half of the motels in the country.
These immigrants are part of "flyover country," too, but they don't fit Zito's narrative, even though they're Americans now, just like whichever ancestors of Zito's first landed here. Their grandkids and great-grandkids will be the equivalent of Zito (and of me) -- fully American, yet only a few generations removed from the Old Country.

And Tom Scocca is right: Does Zito not know that most fast food franchisees are local small business owners, too? Does she not want to talk to these people because they're the wrong kind of small business owners, or because we might ask why she's not talking to their mostly young, minimum-wage employees?

Motel chains and fast food franchises are much more representative of modern American capitalism than B&Bs and small-town restaurants. Zito, I think, would rather report on Trump voters' ideal America than on America as it actually is.


I'm so old I remember the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore -- oh, wait, that was a week ago. It was one of the rare moments in the Trump presidency that seemed at all unifying. Here are some results from a Monmouth University poll released last Thursday:
Opinion of the president’s job performance may have been helped by the talks with the North Korean leader. Trump’s overall rating currently stands at 43% approve and 46% disapprove. The last time Trump’s disapproval rating was less than 50% in Monmouth’s polling was last September....

Most Americans (71%) say that the recent meeting between Trump and Kim was a good idea, including 93% of Republicans, 74% of independents, and 49% of Democrats. Only 20% say it was a bad idea....

Just under half of the public (46%) says the meeting made Trump look stronger on the world stage compared with only 13% who say it made him look weaker....

Half of the public (51%) say it is likely that this meeting will help reduce the nuclear threat posed by North Korea....
These numbers aren't spectacular, but if you're a president who's struggling in the polls, why wouldn't you want to build on an event that not only thrilled your base but was overwhelmingly popular among independents and viewed favorably by nearly half of Democrats?

Within days, however, Trump was obsessing over the report by the Justice Department's inspector general, claiming it exonerated him in the Russia investigation even though that wasn't the report's subject. He attacked the FBI. His loudest surrogate called for an FBI agent to be sent to prison.

And now, when the separation of migrant families at the border is the biggest story in America, the president seems determined not to alter the policy, retaining it as a bargaining chip so he can have his border wall. This is standard-issue Trump heartlessness, and of course it plays well with the base, although not as well as you'd expect -- 46% of Republicans approve of the policy while 33% disapprove, according to an Ipsos/Daily Beast poll -- but it's divisive (overall approval is 27%, as opposed to 56% disapproval).

The policy is bad politics. Republican lawmakers recognize that, according to some reports.

But this is Trump's style. If you think he'll ever abandon divisiveness and make an effort to emphasize broadly popular policies like infrastructure, forget it. Trump likes to brawl, and years of binge-watching Fox News have taught him how to brawl politically all the time. He might allow himself to be momentarily diverted by a widely popular policy, but he's incapable of making that a habit. Fighting with people is what he does. He'll never stop.

The base wants permanent combat, so he'll probably never go below 35% in the polls. But barring an extraordinary 9/11-style event, he'll never go above 50%. He's just not interested in doing the kinds of things that would make him a popular president.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


The New York Times has come in for a lot of criticism in the Trump era, much of it deserved. The Times is often compared unfavorably to the Trump-era Washington Post.

But the Post's Karen Tumulty gets this absolutely wrong:
Melania Trump, the most reticent first lady since Pat Nixon, has done an admirable thing. She has lent her voice to those who oppose the Trump administration’s heinous policy of separating migrant children from their parents.

The statement issued through her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, cautious as it is, bears careful reading:
“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”
... the last sentence in particular is a stark — and, yes, I’ll say it, brave — rejection of her husband’s repeated efforts to shift the blame for this to anyone else.
Um, if Melania is calling on "both sides" to solve a problem entirely created by President Trump and his administration, how is that a "rejection of her husband’s repeated efforts to shift the blame for this to anyone else"?

The Times gets it right, starting with the headline:
Melania Trump Calls on ‘Both Sides’ to End Family Separation, Echoing President’s False Claim
That's how you do it.

(UPDATE: The headline has changed now.)

The story, by Peter Baker, tells us this:
In a statement issued by her office, the first lady expressed empathy for affected families, saying the country should be governed “with a heart,” but did not directly take issue with President Trump’s policy. Instead, by saying that “both sides” needed to agree, she adopted his argument that the situation was caused by political stalemate rather than a policy he initiated.

... The president has falsely blamed Democrats for the situation, saying that he was simply enforcing a law that they had written. But no law requires families to necessarily be separated at the border. Children have been taken away from their parents because of a Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy enacted this year to prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals.
Melania isn't challenging her husband -- this is part of the administration's bamboozlement process. Stephen Miller embraces the family separation policy, Kirsjen Nielsen says family separation isn't administration policy, the president blames it on Democrats -- it's all one big "sorry not sorry," with Miller speaking to the immigrant-haters, the president speaking to the Democrat-haters, and Nielsen and Melania attempting to confuse everyone else. The Post's Tumulty got fooled; at the Times, Baker wasn't. Score one for the Times.


The Trump administration is separating parents from children at the border, and Kathleen Parker doesn't know what's happening to America:
As a mother, my heart breaks at the thought of a frightened and confused child being taken away from his or her parents and stashed like an orphaned animal in what amounts to a holding pen.

To be blunt, I don’t recognize this country anymore.

... Most troubling is the inherent lack of empathy — as policy — and what that not only reveals but also possibly foreshadows. The only way to rationalize these events is to view these immigrants as less than human.
Parker says that an America where such cruelties take place is unrecognizable to her. But Donald Trump's America is one that Parker helped build.

Here's Parker writing about immigration in 2006:
... the concrete reality is that many of those seeking to stay in the U.S. are not seeking also to become Americans of the U.S. variety. Indeed, the clear message from some of those protesting ... is that Mexican immigrants are taking back what they consider to be theirs.

At least a segment of those protesting consider themselves to be neither immigrant nor illegal. Signs at one recent rally, for example, read "This is our country, not yours!" and "All Europeans are illegal." "Reconquista" is the word they choose to define their mission, meaning "reconquest."

... the sight of so many who feel entitled to a piece of the U.S., combined with a sense of encroaching bilingualism, contribute to a spirit of diminishing empathies among even the likeliest of sympathizers.

... The country's riches and benefits are not free for the picking - nor are they all necessarily indigenous to the physical territory - but are part of a national package that demands citizenship of its citizenry.
And here's what she wrote in 2008:
Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?

... It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.

Some run deeper than others.... In a country that is rapidly changing demographically — and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century — there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.

We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants — and we are. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.

... so-called "ordinary Americans" ... know ... that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America....

Some Americans do feel antipathy toward "people who aren't like them," but that antipathy isn't about racial or ethnic differences. It is not necessary to repair antipathy appropriately directed toward people who disregard the laws of the land and who dismiss the struggles that resulted in their creation.

Full-blooded Americans get this. Those who hope to lead the nation better get it soon.
That 2008 column was directed at Barack Obama. Parker has never been a birther, just as she's never really been an immigration hard-liner. But she's very willing to take seriously the views of blood-and-soil rightists who think America is becoming less American because too many people in this country don't have deep roots in (mostly rural) soil. Hell, she wasn't sure Elena Kagan was sufficiently American when Kagan was up for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2010, and Kagan is from Manhattan.
What is Kagan's geography? What is her anchorage, her port of call?

Coincidentally, she shares the same home town as the other two women on the court. Assuming Kagan is confirmed, all three women will hail from New York....

More than half the country also happens to be Protestant, yet with Kagan, the court will feature three Jews, six Catholics and nary a Protestant. Fewer than one-fourth of Americans are Catholic, and 1.7 percent are Jewish.

One does not have to be from a rural Georgia backwater (Clarence Thomas), or the child of recently arrived immigrants (Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito), to qualify as a justice, though it might help in claiming identity with ordinary people....
This isn't the undiluted rhetoric of the haters, including the haters in the White House. It's a nicer, cleaned-up version of that rhetoric. If much of America tolerates family separation of immigrants, and a significant percent of America cheers it on, it's because this rhetoric is persuasive to many citizens, who believe their nation is under siege from "the other." Parker doesn't understand how America has become so callous. She should read through her own archives and ask herself how much she contributed to the heartlessness.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Why? For the love of God, why?

Why? Because he's a provocateur, therefore he's "good television." Also, because he's right-wing. (When Democrats are in power, Sunday talk shows need to be disproportionately right-wing for "balance"; when Republicans are in power, the shows need to be disproportionately right-wing because only right-wingers can provide true insight into what's taking place at the highest levels of power. Obviously!)

Also because it would be unfair not to help a guy out when he's making a comeback, right?

And, more recently:
Steve Bannon plans to unleash an advertising campaign touting President Donald Trump's achievements to help the GOP ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

It could also be seen as a bid by the former White House chief strategist to revive his own political fortunes.

Since May, Bannon has been paying his surrogates to produce political ads in cities across the United States....

The campaign will tout the Trump administration's accomplishments that dovetail with Bannon's own America First views....
Sure, I suppose Bannon might be asked one or two toughish questions on Sunday about the cruelties of the president's immigration policies -- but he'll just ramble and filibuster and throw out a lot of abstruse references to obscure thinkers he in all likelihood hasn't actually read, and the bamboozlement will continue.

Think of this post as a follow-up to my last post, in which I rejected Steve Schmidt's assertion that "The stench of cowardice and corruption of this generation of elected GOP officials will linger for decades." It won't, because the insider establishment will declare the slate wiped clean as soon as Trump is gone. This post is also a response to Joe Scarborough's tweet:

Are you kidding, Joe? It's a club, a clique, one that's "wired for Republicans," as Josh Marshall put it, and everyone who hasn't gone to prison at the end of the Trump era will still be in it. The aides and the lawyers and the spokespeople will all be gainfully employed again and be welcome in the nicest circles. If even Bannon can get a helping hand this way, who's going to be beyond the pale even after Trump is gone?

Friday, June 15, 2018


Republican strategist Steve Schmidt:


Let's assume the best-case scenario: President Trump is called to account for his crimes and/or his incompetence and leaves office in disgrace. Every enabler except a few who were directly entangled with Trump will get do-overs. They'll still be invited on Sunday talk shows. They'll be offered cushy jobs at universities and lobbying firms. They'll be welcome to run for office again or serve in future Cabinets. Their cocktail-party invitations won't trail off. The world of insider politics will just turn the page, just the way the page was turned after George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, and even, only a few years later, after Richard Nixon. We'll never be rid of these bastards. That's the way it works.


In the midst of all the craziness going on today, there's this:
President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday “it’s possible” he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this summer.

A meeting between Trump and Putin was raised when the two leaders spoke by phone in April. Earlier this week, a senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, Richard Hooker, told a Russian news agency that the White House is exploring the idea.
I don't know whether this will happen, but the fact that Trump is considering it says to me that he thinks it will help Republicans in the midterms.

He's undoubtedly aware of polling that suggests that his summit with Kim Jong Un was well received by the American public. But that's because it's assumed that the summit could decrease the likelihood of a nuclear war. Meeting with Putin accomplishes ... what exactly? Apart from giving Trump an.opportunity to kiss up to his patron?

Despite softening among GOP voters, public opinion of Putin isn't very good: In a CNN poll last month, 77% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of the Russian, while 11% had a favorable one. In a March CBS poll, the numbers were 5% favorable, 56% unfavorable.

But I think Trump believes that his meetings with tyrants make him look statesmanlike and Nobel-worthy, and therefore help his party. Either that or, in a Manafortian way, he has a compulsion to consort with the bad guys even as the legal noose tightens around him.


They don't call him the Giant Toddler for nothing:
After arriving in Singapore on Sunday, an antsy and bored Trump urged his aides to demand that the meeting with Kim be pushed up by a day — to Monday — and had to be talked out of altering the long-planned and carefully negotiated summit date on the fly, according to two people familiar with preparations for the event.

“We’re here now,” the president said, according to the people. “Why can’t we just do it?”

Trump’s impatience, coupled with a tense staff-level meeting between the two sides on Sunday, left some aides fearful that the entire summit might be in peril.
That's from The Washington Post, and we're given an explanation of how trouble was averted. I don't believe this part:
Ultimately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders persuaded Trump to stick with the original plan, arguing that the president and his team could use the time to prepare, people familiar with the talks said.
Let me clarify: I believe they said that. I don't believe the president found it persuasive. What additional preparation would Trump think he needed? Preparation for his gut, for his "feel"? I'm sure he thought his "feel" had preparing for this moment all its life.
They also warned him that he might sacrifice wall-to-wall television coverage of his summit if he abruptly moved the long-planned date to Monday in Singapore, which would be Sunday night in the United States.
Okay, that I believe was persuasive. It doesn't even make sense -- President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden on a Sunday night, and he got wall-to-wall coverage. If someone had told Trump the bin Laden announcement was on a Sunday, not only would he have been determined to rush the summit, he would have demanded to know Obama's Nielsen ratings that night, and he would have spent the rest of his time in Singapore obsessing over whether his ratings would be higher. (And he probably would have discussed that at length with Kim Jong Un.)

The Post story also tells us this:
At one point, after watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the president talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim, according to two people familiar with his remarks. He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise as the state TV anchor, one of the people added, and that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television, instead.
The obvious takeaway from this is that Trump is a would-be totalitarian dictator who'd doesn't understand why America should have a free press. But I think this is childishness, too. Trump tolerates, if barely, the press we have. He's said and done some disturbing things with regard to the press, but no journalists have been jailed or assassinated and no news organizations have been shut down. Mostly Trump just threatens and complains. It's fair to say that he admires state-run North Korean news because he has dictatorial instincts, but it can also be argued that he'd like our media to be that way because he's lazy. He wants uniformly positive press, but he doesn't want to earn it. He just wants it handed to him on a platter, the way Mom serves dinner every night when you're a little child.

Or you could put the two ideas together and say that Trump wants totalitarian powers but doesn't want to work to acquire them. I believe Trump has no loyalty to our system of government and would have no qualms about ruling by force, but he isn't willing to make the effort required to seize power. Even Kim Jong Un has done the work, and he was once believed to be too immature and feckless to hold on to power. He's a brutal SOB, but he'd never have gotten this far if he shared Trump's belief that it shouldn't be necessary to work for what you want.

... And as I write this, here's Trump on the front lawn of the White House, talking with a guy who's nearly as deferential as that North Korean newsreader:
President Trump on Friday morning observed that Fox & Friends was filming on the White House lawn and announced that he would make an “unannounced visit” down to speak with his favorite morning cable show.

During the resulting chat with host Steve Doocy, the president repeatedly and lavishly praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with whom he met earlier this week, remarking: “He’s the head of a country—and I mean he’s the strong head. He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.”
See? "I want my people to do the same." Trump likes the idea of absolute control over the population he rules. But he wishes it would just happen.