Thursday, December 08, 2016

ALLEGED BUMBLING IDIOT PRIEBUS IS HANDING CONTROL OF TRUMP'S WHITE HOUSE TO THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT

As a liberal, I'm supposed to believe that Reince Priebus is a hapless doofus, but he backed the winning (or "winning") horse in the 2016 election, he wangled a job in the White House, and now, according to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, he seems to be taking over the joint:
Sources point to Trump’s early appointments of hard-liners Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Mike Flynn for national security adviser as evidence of [Steve] Bannon’s influence. But Priebus has flexed his muscle in more recent appointments such as Betsy DeVos for education secretary and RNC donors Wilbur Ross at Commerce and Steve Mnuchin at Treasury....

Trump campaign staffers are also angry that Priebus is attempting to staff the West Wing with mainstream GOP officials rather than Trump loyalists. According to sources, Priebus wants Trump to appoint RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer to serve as White House press secretary rather than Kellyanne Conway (who turned down the job, sources say); he is also promoting RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh for deputy chief of staff, and former George W. Bush deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin for deputy chief for operations. “If Priebus controls the schedule and the message, what does Bannon actually control?” one Bannon loyalist asked.

... With only about 40 West Wing positions available, Priebus is moving quickly to fill them with his choices. This may be one of the ways in which his knowledge of how the West Wing works puts him at an advantage.
But we were told when Priebus was hired that he doesn't know how the West Wing works -- "he’s never worked in the White House or even in Wisconsin state government," Matt Yglesias wrote last month. However, Priebus, like his good buddy Paul Ryan and his pals the Koch brothers, knows the mission of the GOP -- tax cuts, deregulation, crushing unions (which is the point of Betsy DeVos's war on public schools) -- and he's laying the groundwork for the accomplishment of that mission.

Priebus is not only outflanking Bannon, he's taking advantage of Trump's ignorance and distractibility. This is my favorite detail from the Sherman story (emphasis added):
... some at Trump Tower are alarmed that Priebus has so far not offered jobs to a number of Trump loyalists who may have been expecting them, including Michael Cohen, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, and Dave Bossie. “We didn’t fight two years against the swamp only to bring the swamp into the White House,” one senior Trump adviser told me. Sources said Trump himself may not be aware that members of his original team haven’t been offered jobs.
Good grief.

Yesterday, Sherman's New York colleague Jonathan Chait summed up Paul Ryan's approach to Trump succinctly:
Paul Ryan: Trump Can Steal All He Wants As Long As I Get Tax Cuts
That's been the attitude of the GOP as a whole, with the exception of a few holdouts, since it became clear Trump would be the party's presidential nominee. The vast majority of the party has had no problem with Trump's bigotry, sexism, ignorance, or thievery as long as he could be the vehicle to help the GOP bring back the Gilded Age. And now Reince Priebus is on the inside, helping to get that done, and helping to make sure that the Trump administration is as much like a Scott Walker administration as it can possibly be.

****

UPDATE: There's more on this at Politico.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE "WAR ON CHRISTMAS" BEFORE YOU RAN FOR PRESIDENT, DONALD?

The Hill, in a desperate search for right-wing eyeballs, posts this fact-challenged headline:
With Trump, conservatives hope for ally in 'War on Christmas'
Memo to The Hill: THERE IS NO WAR ON CHRISTMAS. Christmas is thriving in America. Christmas starts thriving every year in America well before Thanksgiving. There was never a war, or if there ever was, Christmas won. Bigly.

But to Trump, we have always been at war with EastPC:
Conservatives are hoping that Donald Trump will be a strong ally in the “War on Christmas.”

The president-elect, who repeatedly promised his supporters “we’re going to say ‘merry Christmas’ again,” made opposition to political correctness a tenet of his campaign. For some Trump voters, the generic, non-religious greeting “happy holidays” -- a phrase often employed by the Obama administration -- exemplifies that PC culture.

“I’m a good Christian. If I become president, we’re gonna be saying ‘merry Christmas’ at every store,” Trump said in Iowa last year. “You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

Since Election Day, Trump has kept up the same tune.

“President-elect Trump loves Christmas and makes a point of proudly saying ‘Merry Christmas’ every chance he gets,” his transition team said in a November statement....

"You can say again 'merry Christmas' because Donald Trump is now the president," Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, said on "Hannity" Tuesday evening. "You can say it again. It's OK to say."
I just want to take this moment to remind you that Donald Trump did not always feel this way about "happy holidays." Here's some of what I discovered when I looked into this back in August 2015:


Okay, that's just one tweet. But then there's this, from the Trump at Home Tumblr page:



... And this, from the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York:



And while the image is no longer available, I see this in a 2006 posting to a message board for casino chip collectors:



Which must be the same chip referred to in this 2007 newsletter from the Atlantic City Casino Collectibles Club:



And then there are these chips, from the Trump Marina in Atlantic City. Note the legend on the first one: "Have a wild holiday!" -- yes, "holiday," not "Christmas":

Remember all this when you read the following in The Hill:
Throughout his campaign, Trump fans lauded him as someone not afraid to fight back against political correctness, including floating a boycott of Starbucks over its secular holiday cups.
The Hill cites several people who treat the war on Christmas as a real thing -- Fox's Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson among them -- but leaves the entire case on the other side to be handled by the Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn expresses confidence that Trump can't decide what people say or do:
However, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, points out that “obviously the president has no power to determine what holiday greetings are used in stores and shops.” ...

“Nothing says freedom more than a president telling the public what holidays to celebrate and exactly how to celebrate them,” he said in an email. “But I'm mollified by the fact that Trump’s promise is meaningless because, thankfully, he has no power to enforce it.”
I disagree. This is a man who can send one tweet and inspire many, many acolytes to issue death threats against his targets. This is a man who has the power to make stock prices plummet with one targeted 140-character IED. Do you think he won't use that power in the so-called war on Christmas, given how effectively it will rally the base?

If he doesn't abuse his power this way in the next few weeks, he will when he's president. Count on it.

I AM SHOCKED, SHOCKED, THAT AN AUTHORITARIAN LIKES GENERALS

Washington Post front page, are you kidding me?



The linked story is not bad, apart from this assertion. But why does the media continue to say this about Trump? The guy said he wanted to "bomb the shit out of" ISIS. He advocated taking Iraq's oil as spoils of war. Why was the press so focused on his (after-the-fact) Iraq War skepticism while ignoring his more bloodthirsty applause lines?

The Post story notes Trump's choice of retired Marine general John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, one of several military men who'll have (or might have) top positions in the administration:
If confirmed, Kelly and defense secretary nominee James Mattis, a retired Marine general with the nickname “Mad Dog,” would join retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s pick for White House national security adviser. Meanwhile, retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is under consideration for secretary of state, and Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers is a contender for director of national intelligence.
What's going on?
Despite making regular remarks on the campaign trail disparaging the nation’s generals, Trump has long shown an affinity for them. In shaping his administration, Trump has prioritized what one adviser described as “can-do, no-bull types” ...

Trump, who received multiple draft deferments and who has no military experience beyond his years at a military boarding school, is said to be drawn to generals by their swagger and dazzled by their tales from the battlefield.
I'm not sure why Trump said on the campaign trail that he "know[s] more about ISIS than the generals do." (He said that in the same speech in which he talked about bombing the shit out of ISIS.) If I had to guess, I'd say it's simple jealousy -- Trump thinks of himself as the toughest of tough guys, the alpha of all alphas, but he knows that military men are seen as tougher, and while he never actually wanted to fight, he envies their status. The admiration he's expressing now is the flip side of that envy. And now, of course, he's unquestionably in the dominant position -- he gets to hire them; he gets to be their boss.

He wants the reflected glory. It's not just that, in his view, these guys are tough -- it's that they're perceived as tough. To him, they carry an aura of toughness -- and therefore, by extension, so does he. Compare this to what Trump insiders have said about the president-elect's baffling interest in making Mitt Romney his secretary of state:
Transition officials ... say that Mr. Trump believes that Mr. Romney, with his patrician bearing, looks the part of a top diplomat right out of “central casting” ...
Trump has now reverted to the pro-military stance that for decades has been part of how conservatives define themselves. Trump presumably picked this up from his beloved Fox News. (Recall that Trump frenemy Roger Ailes wanted David Petraeus to run for president in 2012. Ailes communicated this wish to Petraeus via K.T. McFarland, who'll now be Trump's deputy national security adviser, reporting to General Mike Flynn.)

Trump loves the toughness. The generals' other accomplishments are probably secondary. Here was Trump talking about his choice of General Mattis to be defense secretary:
“ ‘Mad Dog’ plays no games, right?” Trump told a roaring crowd Tuesday night in Fayetteville, N.C. “Led the forces that went after the Taliban and commanded the First Marine Division in Iraq. He is one of the most effective generals that we’ve had in many, many decades."
The first sentence of that was clearly heartfelt. In the rest, Trump seems like a late-night talk-show host reading his final guest's introduction off an index card.

Trump thinks hiring a lot of generals makes him an honorary military man. But for the GOP in recent decades, that's typical. Ronald Reagan loved to salute, even though his military experience was limited to filmmaking and a war-bond drive. George W. Bush gave us that flightsuit moment in 2003, even though his military service was limited to the Texas Air National Guard. Trump is like no president we've seen before in many ways -- but not in this way.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

YUP, NOT A DIME'S WORTH OF DIFFERENCE

Nobody could have predicted that an incoming president who's said climate change is a hoax would do something like this:
President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change -- and much of the E.P.A. itself.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies....

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged -- in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.” ...

“During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly threatened to dismantle the E.P.A. and roll back many of the gains made to reduce Americans’ exposures to industrial pollution, and with Pruitt, the president-elect would make good on those threats,” said Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organization.

“It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile E.P.A. administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history,” he added.
A lot of delicate souls told us all year that they couldn't possibly vote for Hillary Clinton -- and what difference would it make anyway, given how indistinguishable she was from the Republican nominee? Okay, so now that we are where we are, how indistinguishable was she? Who might have been her EPA secretary?

In August, Politico said that Clinton campaign chair John Podesta might have sought the job himself; a couple of months later, the Huffington Post, citing Wikileaks emails, noted that Podesta had twice recommended billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer to President Obama for the EPA job, and also put in a good word for former Colorado senator Tim Wirth, who organized Senate hearings on climate change (with NASA scientist James Hansen) back in 1988, and who led the U.S. negotiating team at the Kyoto Summit.

Trump vs. Clinton on the EPA? Yeah, I guess it's a tossup.

This is what left purists always refuse to grasp: that presidents have a tremendous amount of influence, and not just in the areas covered in purist talking points. It sure seems damning to run through the anti-Clinton bill of particulars (Goldman Sachs! Glass-Steagall repeal! The Iraq War vote! "Superpredators"!) -- but then a Republican sneaks into the White House, and this is what happens:



(And really, this would have been true if any of the Republicans who ran in 2016 had been elected.)

Just to pick one office from Berman's list: Who might have been Clinton's attorney general? Politico suggested that the top pick for the job that's going to go to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions would have been Tom Perez, the current labor secretary and a former civil rights lawyer. Perez's whitehouse.gov bio reads in part:
Previously Perez served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice.... Under his leadership as Assistant Attorney General, the division successfully implemented the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act; expanded equal housing opportunity by bringing and settling the largest fair-lending cases in history; protected schoolchildren from discrimination, bullying and harassment; dramatically expanded access to employment, housing and educational opportunities for people with disabilities; protected the right to vote for all eligible voters free from discrimination; took record-setting efforts to ensure that communities have effective and democratically accountable policing; and safeguarded the employment, housing, fair lending and voting rights of service members. He also expanded the division's partnerships across federal agencies to address cross-cutting challenges in human trafficking, employment discrimination and fair lending, among others.
Perez vs. Sessions? Yup, hard to choose!

I don't want to limit the blame to purist lefty voters. They get some of their information from like-minded voices in the left media, but they're also exposed to the mainstream media, which regularly insists that Republicans really aren't that bad, and are just a few millimeters to the right of dead center. And Democrats never runs against the Republican Party itself -- they never attempt to portray the GOP as an existential threat to common decency (which is how Republicans routinely describe the Democratic Party to their voters). So maybe it's understandable if the inevitable consequences of allowing a Republican into the White House come as a shock to so many people.

MITCH McCONNELL DOESN'T SEEM PARTICULARLY WORRIED ABOUT OBAMACARE REPEAL CONSEQUENCES

Politico tells me that Republican Obamacare opponents in Congress have a tough road ahead:
After meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday to hash out plans to repeal Obamacare, top Senate Republicans are no closer to resolving an issue that’s splintering the GOP heading into the start of Donald Trump’s presidency: how long to give themselves to replace the law....

The only firm plans are for the Senate to kick off the repeal effort as soon as Jan. 3 by passing a budget resolution -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling it the “Obamacare repeal resolution” -- that sets the table to repeal the Affordable Care Act on a simple majority vote. Then, shortly after Trump is sworn in, Republicans aim to have a repeal bill on his desk to sign.

It’s what comes after that moment of catharsis that Republicans are struggling with.

Lawmakers have proposed putting off the effective date of repeal from as little as six months to as long as three years to come up with a replacement -- and give insurance markets a chance to prepare. Several senators suggested at the meeting with Pence that additional measures from Congress or the administration may be needed to address rising insurance premiums and avoid roiling the insurance markets in the period between repeal and replace, attendees said.
But we're told that none of these concerns are preventing Mitch McConnell from proclaiming that Obamacare repeal will be the first order of business for the Senate, which will be sworn in two and a half weeks before Donald Trump's inauguration. If there's a painful struggle in their future, he doesn't seem particularly concerned about it, and the warnings from the Democrats -- regarding repeal-and-replace, Chuck Schumer says, "bring it on" -- don't seem to worry him.

Repeal is a huge brand-building exercise for the GOP. (Watch the party-approval polling numbers after it happens -- the GOP's will skyrocket, as conservatives who regularly vote GOP but grumble about the party stop grumbling.) After that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯? According to Politico, folks like Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus want a quick replacement, just as a matter of principle. Some Republicans don't want the replacement process stretching into 2019, when the next presidential campaign will be under way. And, oh yeah, there's concern about a possible "death spiral," in which insurers, knowing the law is on its deathbed, pull out of the marketplaces and leave a lot of people uninsured.

But if McConnell thought any of this was a reason to tread carefully, repeal wouldn't be at the top of his agenda. He clearly believes Republicans will be fine under any of these scenarios.

I predict a replacement period that extends past the 2018 midterms, for reasons Zandar laid out a few days ago:



Yes, Republicans will blame what they do to Obamacare on Obamacare. Now, that won't work if Democrats out-message them. But when has that ever happened? (Maybe the last time was during George W. Bush's drive to privatize Social Security. So: not in a decade.)

But what about the death spiral? Zandar again:



It will also be rumored that Those People are still getting coverage under the really good Obamacare, while Real Americans (i.e., white people) are caught in the death spiral.

So, yeah, they'll get away with this. And the replacement plan will be woefully inadequate. But it will seem shiny and promising through at least ... oh, 2020, when it will gradually become obvious that the new policies are full of holes and universal coverage is more of a theory than a fact. But by that time, Trump and the GOP Congress will be safely reelected.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

TRUMP'S DROP-IN-THE-BUCKET CARRIER DEAL POLLS BETTER THAN OBAMA'S BIG AUTO RESCUE

The polling looks good for Trump and Pence's Carrier deal:
Donald Trump’s first major action as president-elect -- the deal he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence struck last week with Carrier Corp. -- is earning high marks from American voters, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows.

... Sixty percent of voters say Carrier’s decision to keep some manufacturing jobs in Indiana ... gives them a more favorable view of Trump. That includes not only 87 percent of self-identified Republicans, but also 54 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats.

Only 9 percent say it makes them view Trump less favorably, while 22 percent say it doesn’t have an impact either way.
By contrast:



Why the difference?

First, some Democrats are willing to give Trump credit for the deal. In the Politico poll, you see that 40% of Democrats say the Carrier deal makes them more favorably disposed to Trump.

By contrast, Republicans would never give President Obama credit for anything. In the 2012 Gallup poll cited by Luntz and The Hill above, only 25% of Republicans favored the rescue of the auto industry.

Beyond that, please note the way the auto rescue was framed. It was regularly called a "bailout" -- and the word "bailout" probably reminded voters of the bailout of the financial industry, which infuriated many of them. In that Gallup poll the question was:
Now, thinking back to one of the major actions taken by the federal government in the last four years, would you say you approve or disapprove of the financial bailout for U.S. automakers that were in danger of failing?
It was also seen as a giveaway to the industry, even though most of the money involved was in the form of loans. So in CNN polling, which showed that the rescue was unpopular in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the question was:
Looking back, do you think the federal government should have provided financial help in 2009 to U.S. automakers who were in financial trouble, or should these companies have been allowed to succeed or fail on their own?
But in a 2012 Pew poll, the rescue was popular -- 56% of respondents thought it was good for the economy and only 38% didn't. Why? Maybe because Pew's question referred to loans.
The government also gave loans to General Motors and Chrysler during this period. Do you think this was mostly good or mostly bad for the economy?
The Republican narrative throughout the Obama years was that the president spent money with no sense of responsibility. That became the story much of heartland America believed. In the case of the Carrier deal, the opposition party isn't driving the narrative. (Democrats never do, do they?)

The Carrier deal saved only 800 jobs -- 730 union jobs plus 70 salaried positions. Cost, as far as we know: $7 million in tax breaks. That's $8750 per job.

The auto rescue saved 1.5 million jobs. A 2014 study said it cost taxpayers $9 billion. That's $6000 per job --for a lot more jobs and a lot more ongoing economic activity.

But Republicans told the story of the auto rescue, just as Republicans are telling the Carrier story. So the polls go their way in both cases.

IF TRUMP FANS DON'T TAKE HIM LITERALLY, WHY IS HIS HYPERBOLIC LANGUAGE SO SPECIFIC?

You know about President-elect Trump's latest coup de théâtre, I assume:
Donald Trump on Tuesday called for the cancellation of a Defense Department contract with Boeing to build the next generation of presidential aircraft, decrying the deal as too expensive.

“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” the president-elect wrote on Twitter.

“The plane is totally out of control. It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program and I think it’s ridiculous," Trump elaborated in brief comments to reporters at Trump Tower. "I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
And you probably know that the $4 billion figure was pulled out of Trump's keister:
Boeing on Tuesday responded to President-elect Donald Trump's criticism over the cost of a new Air Force One plane, saying the contract is actually for $170 million....

"We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serves the unique requirements of the President of the United States," Boeing said in a statement....

The Pentagon announced in January that Boeing had won the contract to replace the current Air Force One planes.... the Air Force planned on spending as much as $1.65 billion on the project, according to Reuters.
So there's no basis for Trump's $4 billion figure -- I couldn't find a claim of this kind even in the wingnuttosphere, nor could Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald.

But isn't even $1.65 billion a lot for a plane? Here's Eichenwald:



As I watch this story unfold, I find myself thinking of an idea about Trump that became increasingly popular in certain circles over the past few months. The Atlantic's Selena Zito seems to have been the first to articulate it:
“Fifty-eight percent of black youth cannot get a job, cannot work,” [Trump] says. “Fifty-eight percent. If you are not going to bring jobs back, it is just going to continue to get worse and worse.”

It’s a claim that drives fact-checkers to distraction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 at 20.6 percent. Trump prefers to use its employment-population ratio, a figure that shows only 41.5 percent of blacks in that age bracket are working. But that means he includes full time high-school and college students among the jobless.

It’s a familiar split. When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
(Emphasis added.)

Vindictive zillionaire Peter Thiel later picked up on this:
... I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. So when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment, or things like that, the question is not are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China, or how exactly are you going to enforce these tests. What they hear is we're going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy. We're going to try to figure out how do we strike the right balance between cost and benefits.
But what never gets explained is why Trump doesn't just go with the truth. $1.65 billion is a big number. You could easily imagine the Trump base recoiling at horror at that much tax revenue being spent on a plane, even if it turns out that the price tag is reasonable, given the communications and security extras that have to be built into Air Force One.

The point is that Trump has an intuition about the degree of falsehood that will make his intended audience believe him. It's not enough to be against undocumented immigrants -- you have to round all of them up, and build a wall, and get Mexico to pay for it. It's not enough that a new Air Force One will be expensive -- the taxpayers have to think they're on the hook for more than twice the actual projected cost.

Yes, when you ask voters, they seem to know that Trump isn't telling the truth -- a poll out today says that 55% of Americans say it's "not very or not at all likely" that Trump will actually get the wall built.

But at some level -- in some part of their brains -- Trumpers need these specifics. They delight in them. During the campaign, Trump sometimes hedges on his promises in interviews, but then he'd go right back to rallying the faithful at campaign stops with the uncut stuff.

What I'm saying is that there's an area in every Trump fan's cranium where these falsehoods and exaggerations are taken literally, and wouldn't be as effective if they weren't hyperbolic. Zito and Thiel -- an elite journalist and a billionaire -- romanticize the great unwashed Trumpers, ascribing to them a sage wisdom the establishment lacks. But on some level the Trumpers believe. $1.65 billion wouldn't have rallied them to Trump today. Maybe $2 billion or $3 billion wouldn't have, either. Trump's instinct was that the number had to be $4 billion -- and if he has any area of expertise, it's in dishonesty. He's an excellent liar.

This stuff works. It works because it's taken at face value in some region of the average Tumper's brain. I bet the faithful will be repeating that $4 billion figure as if it's gospel for a long time to come.

CNN BETA-TESTS SUPREME COURT TALKING POINTS ON DONALD TRUMP'S BEHALF

This article by CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue is pure, undiluted pro-Trump and pro-GOP propaganda:
Trump could bring a different kind of diversity to the Supreme Court

... As he considers a list of nominees to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Trump is looking for a kind of diversity the current court lacks.

The potential nominees all have sterling judicial conservative credentials. But the current list represents something else -- a nod to judges from "flyover" states, an appreciation for non-Ivy League schools and even a dash of political experience. Many on Trump's list wore different hats before donning their judicial robes. And some have personal stories that could attract the President-elect.

... Trump's list is geographically diverse, including names from Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota. At an appearance at the University of Arizona last August, Justice Elena Kagan noted the issue of geographic diversity and the fact that many justices come from the "non square states."

... Besides geographic diversity, Trump might seek a candidate that brings a strong personal story to the court.

Last month, Judge Thomas Hardiman appeared in Washington to moderate a complicated panel concerning labor and employment law for the conservative Federalist Society. He told the panel he might have to channel his prior taxi driving experience to address the subject. Indeed, before he was appointed as a judge at 37 years old, Hardiman drove a cab to earn funds. He was the first child in his family to attend college....

Judge Rayond Gruender of the 8th Circuit has a different kind of story. Long before he took the bench, he suffered an unbelievably violent attack at the hands of his father....

A candidate who would certainly bring a different type of experience to the court is Margaret Ryan.

Ryan is a former active duty marine, including serving as an aide de camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Ryan has more conventional credentials as well, as a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and is serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. But how many nominees have served in both Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm? ...
If Trump nominates one or more of these people to fill Supreme Court vacancies, it's perfectly legitimate for their advocates to use these arguments on their behalf. Opponents will have legitimate arguments of their own, probably focusing on ideology and temperament.

But it isn't CNN's job to road-test talking points for the president-elect. And that's all this article does. If it's not intended to help Trump sell his judicial choices, it's intended to signal to the incoming administration that de Vogue is a friendly journalist the Trumpers can work with.

It's possible to take these talking points and weave them into a story that's not Pravda-esque -- see this piece by Adam Liptak in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. But what de Vogue gives us is pure stenography. Expect more of this in the coming months, as an increasing number of journalists conclude, erroneously, that resistance to Trumpism (and Republicanism) is futile.

Monday, December 05, 2016

THE AL GORE MEETING: AGAIN, THE TRUMPS USE THE TRANSITION PROCESS TO TRY TO MAKE MONEY

The president-elect and his daughter Ivanka met with Al Gore today:
President-elect Donald Trump met on Monday with Al Gore -- one of the most vocal advocates of fighting climate change.

Before the meeting, Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on a daily briefing call that Gore would meet with Ivanka Trump, the President-elect's daughter, about climate issues, but he did not know what specifically was on the agenda. He had also said the former Democratic vice president would not meet with Trump himself.

But Gore told reporters after the meeting that he met with Trump himself after seeing Ivanka.

"I had a lengthy and very productive session with the President-elect," Gore said, according to the pool report. "It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the President-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that."
Allahpundit at the right-wing site Hot Air finds this curious:
It’s not surprising that young urban liberal Ivanka Trump would want to pick Al Gore’s brain on his and the left’s pet issue. What’s surprising is that the transition team would announce it publicly. Why do that? Why didn’t she just call Gore? A showy meeting with him will only annoy right-wingers, and Trump himself usually doesn’t seem to care much about impressing the left, to his credit.
He comes to essentially the same conclusion I did:
The announcement feels less like something done at Trump’s behest than done at Ivanka’s behest, to signal to her political and social circles that she may be part of Team Trump but she’s not wavering in her own views.... The Trumps are all about branding. Ivanka’s making sure her brand remains somewhat distinct from her father’s.
I'd say she's trying to ensure that she remains in the good graces of her customers -- both the merchants who carry her products and the ultimate purchasers, many of whom don't like her father. And she has some reasons to worry. A boycott of her products began last month:
... technology-and-media-marketing specialist Shannon Coulter created the hashtag #GrabYourWallet to encourage consumers to boycott businesses that carry Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories lines....

An updated spreadsheet has been circulating on Twitter listing the retailers that do business with the Trump family, along with contact information their customer-relations departments. These include major retailers like Amazon, Macy’s, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord and Taylor, all of which carry the Ivanka Trump collection.

An updated spreadsheet has been circulating on Twitter listing the retailers that do business with the Trump family, along with contact information their customer-relations departments. These include major retailers like Amazon, Macy’s, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord and Taylor, all of which carry the Ivanka Trump collection....

#GrabYourWallet saw its first victory a few days ago, when Shoes.com became the first retailer to dump Trump products as a result of the boycott.
You can see the spreadsheet at grabyourwallet.org. Coulter (@shannoncoulter) has 28,000 followers on Twitter.

And over the weekend the Fashion & Style section of The New York Times reported on how Ivanka is navigating the process of being the daughter of sexist wingnut bigot president-elect. It's not all going smoothly:
Last month, artists like Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, both of whose works Ms. Trump has collected, lent their names in support of a “Dear Ivanka” open letter, one that included statements like “I’m black and I’m afraid of Jeff Sessions” and “My mom is going to be deported,” but that also said, “We wanted to appeal to your rationality and your commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans, especially women and children.” The two were among the 200 or so attendees Monday night at a protest outside the Puck Building, which Mr. Kushner owns and where the couple has an apartment....

“I think it’s delusional to believe there’s any difference between Mr. Trump and his children on any of his extreme positions,” [Barry] Diller, a Clinton donor in the 2016 campaign, wrote in a recent email. “They’ve had every opportunity to publicly modify them and have not done so.” ...

In Aspen, Colo., at the annual Weekend With Charlie Rose conference in September, Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, her husband, joined the likes of Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Ari Emanuel and Jeffrey Katzenberg at a dinner in the dining room of the Hotel Jerome.

Hasan Minhaj, 31, the popular “Daily Show” comedian, was the entertainer at a Thursday night dinner and gently ribbed some of the more exalted guests about their wealth and power.

But his digs went deeper when Mr. Minhaj, whose parents emigrated from India to the United States shortly before he was born, turned to Ms. Trump.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, his tone suggesting others in the room were asking the same question. Listing Mr. Trump’s attacks on Muslims, like suggesting that they should be barred from entering the country, Mr. Minhaj implored Ms. Trump to stop abetting her father, and then closed with a sharp-edged joke.

“At the end of the day, your dad wants to deport my dad,” he said.

Ms. Trump sat there, Mr. Minhaj said, “looking uncomfortable.”
Ivanka hasclaimed that she wants to make climate change one of her "signature issues." She had a well-publicized meeting with Leonardo DiCaprio in which he gave her a copy of a climate change documentary he made.

It's all branding. But today's meeting was Ivanka Trump branding as part of the presidential transition effort. It's no different from Papa Donald chatting about hotels in what's supposed to be a discussion with foreign leaders or diplomats. The Trumps never stop doing business. This was more of that.

What I can't figure out is why Daddy Donald met with Gore. He does like us to think that even his enemies feel the need to pay court to him (see: Mitt Romney). And maybe someone on his team felt he should give cover to what was, in effect, a business meeting at the unofficial transition headquarters. Or maybe Big Poppa doesn't want his base to think that his liberal daughter and the evil "Algore" are conniving to ban internal combustion engines behind his back. Beyond that, I'm drawing a blank.

TODAY IN "BOTH SIDES DO IT"

You could argue that Democrats asked for the Politico headline they got because they brought up Merrick Garland in connection with Trump appointees:
Senate Democrats are preparing to put Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks through a grinding confirmation process, weighing delay tactics that could eat up weeks of the Senate calendar and hamper his first 100 days in office.

Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.

But it’s not just about exacting revenge.

Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks -- such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary -- demand a thorough public airing.

“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”
But that still doesn't justify the headline:
Democrats to give Trump Cabinet picks the Garland treatment
Wrong. Democrats can't "give Trump Cabinet picks the Garland treatment." No Democrat expresses the intention of "giv[ing] Trump Cabinet picks the Garland treatment." The worst these appointees are going to experience is this:
Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

Democrats could conceivably force up to 30 hours of debate for each Cabinet nominee, which would be highly disruptive for a GOP Senate that usually works limited hours but has big ambitions for next year.
Do I have to explain the obvious? Merrick Garland did not get a vote in the Senate. Merrick Garland did not get a vote in the Judiciary Committee. Merrick Garland did not get a hearing. When Democrats completely block a Trump Cabinet appointment, then they'll be giving the appointee "the Garland treatment."

And because, for the mainstream media, the flip side of "both sides do it" is "actually, Democrats are worse," we're told this:
Eight years ago, when the roles were reversed, with Barack Obama taking office and an all-Democratic Congress, Republicans were mostly deferential to the incoming president. On Obama's first day in office, the Senate confirmed seven of Obama's Cabinet nominees. By the end of that week, it had cleared more than a dozen senior-level positions, all without dissent except for Hillary Clinton’s nomination to be secretary of state, for which the GOP demanded a roll call.

Trump almost certainly won’t be receiving similar treatment.
Yes, because Republicans chose to be obstructionist about appointments that weren't likely to make the nightly news. It took seven months to confirm Tom Perez as head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, presumably because Republicans didn't like the idea of having a career civil rights lawyer in the job. And Republicans saw to it that Obama's judicial appointments were slow-walked, as Slate's Doug Kendall noted in late October 2009:
Only three of [President Obama's] 22 lower court nominees have been confirmed so far. The latest one, Roberto Lange for a federal district court in South Dakota, was cleared last week after waiting for three and a half months (including three weeks on the floor). The slow pace of the president's nominations is part of the problem. But the larger issue is a new form of obstructionism in the Senate.

It seems clear that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory -- delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president's judicial nominees.
So what else makes this situation Garland-like? What other false equivalency can Politico offer?
Historically, the Senate began hearings before Inauguration Day for every attorney general nominee from a newly elected president since Dwight Eisenhower, with the exception of a nominee carried over by George H.W. Bush from the Reagan administration who was approved without a hearing. Incoming Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she highly doubts Sessions will be confirmed on Inauguration Day.

She, like other Democrats interviewed for this story, said that Republicans’ treatment of Garland is impossible to forget.

“Past is present, and what goes around comes around. Now, those are pretty hackneyed sayings, but those are really true around here,” Feinstein said in an interview.

Not all Democrats are on board with a strategy of delay.

Informed that Democrats might hold up Sessions and other nominations past Jan. 20, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia responded: “That’s just bullshit.”

“My God, I think we should have an attorney general in place on Jan. 20. I sure do believe that," added Manchin....
Omigid! Not allowing Jeff Sessions to be sworn in by January 20 -- that's exactly as bad as keeping Garland off the bench altogether!

Get ready for more of this from the media.

WHERE'S OUR PETER THIEL?

It's all fun and games until someone takes you seriously enough to do this:
A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign....

Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant; they think that all other occupants had fled when Welch began shooting....

The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true.
A lot of people spread the "Pizzagate" story -- you could read about it at 4Chan and on Facebook, and at a sites such as the New Nationalist and the Vigilant Citizen. Reddit was a hotbed of Pizzagate posts until the site banned the topic.

And then there's Alex Jones's InfoWars. Edgar Maddison Welch's "likes" on Facebook included both Jones and InfoWars -- for whom the story was an obsession:



Here's part of the description posted by the Alex Jones Channel for one of its YouTube videos on Pizzagate:
The FBI has long known the symbols pedophiles are using to operate. An FBI Unclassified document from wikileaks reveals "Symbols and Logos Used by Pedophiles to Identify Sexual Preferences.... to include those who sexually abuse children as well as those who produce, distribute, and trade child pornography, are using various types of identification logos or symbols to recognize one another and distinguish their sexual preferences. To specifically indicate the pedophile's gender preference, members of pedophilic organizations encourage the use of descriptions such as "boylove", "girllove", and "childlove." ...

Now...clues. The menu from Comet Ping Pong. Notice the symbol of the ping pong paddles and its clever resemblance to the FBI documents symbol for Child Love.
The owner of Comet Ping Pong received death threats after this story spread, and his employees were subject to abusive messages. And now this gunman.

So where's our Peter Thiel? Where's the rich person who'll bankroll a massive lawsuit on Comet's behalf against media outlets that spread this story, the Alex Jones empire in particular?

Corporations can sue for defamation, although in D.C. a business, no matter how small, is considered a public figure for the purposes of such lawsuits, which means that plaintiffs must demonstrate actual malice -- that is, it must be shown that the defamer knew the story was false or acted with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity. It's a high but not impossibly high bar to clear.

I can understand why Comet's owner wouldn't want to go to court -- the deplorables are making his life miserable now, so imagine what they'd do if he sued Alex Jones.

But it seems to me that this is precisely the sort of abuse that libel and defamation laws are meant to prevent. It would not chill free speech to punish a media outlet that willfully accuses an innocent small-business owner of being part of a pedophile ring knowing full well that that's not true.

I'd be surprised if a suit of this kind is ever filed. But it would be a good thing.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

WHEN IT COMES TO REPORTING ON NASTY DEMAGOGUES, WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WORKS ANYMORE

This piece by New York Times public editor Liz Spayd is not going over well:
IF you have not yet heard the term “alt-right,” you most likely are living in another orbit. It is the chosen name of an extremist fringe with white supremacy at its roots. It is also a label many consider dangerous because it sanitizes the movement’s racist core. And if the media uses the word, they think, then they’re part of the problem.

As the fire rages, The New York Times has become ground zero.

... so far, there is no move among top editors to ban it. Instead, their thinking is: You can use the phrase in a story, but make sure you include a blunt explanation of its meaning.
There's that, and there's Spayd's defense of some recent Times reporting on Steve Bannon:
Scott Shane, a veteran reporter, produced a significant investigative piece on Trump’s most controversial adviser, Stephen Bannon. Through rigorous reporting and revelatory details, a portrait of Bannon emerged that was fascinating, original, and yet not neatly characterized. The story didn’t call Bannon a racist, a demerit in the eyes of some readers. And the headline used the phrase “Combative Populist.” Another demerit.

... Readers ... complained to my office, some with passionate responses, like that of Paul Kingsley of Rochester. “Steve Bannon could accurately be referred to as a racist, a misogynist, or a xenophobe,” Kingsley wrote. “It is inaccurate to refer to him as a ‘populist.’ Inherent in the definition is to represent ‘ordinary people’; Bannon’s views are extreme and anything but ‘normal.’ The NYT referring to him thusly normalizes his views and does the majority of people, who would not claim his hateful rhetoric as their own, a disservice.”

Kingsley’s point is worthy of discussion, but I had a different reaction to the story. When I read it, I trusted my narrator more because he wrote without judgment or loaded terms. He let me judge. And he wasn’t afraid to use nuance when it was called for, which in this age is braver than flat-out proclaiming someone a racist.

Go here for some critical tweetstorms.





My complaint when the piece landed was that it gave too many column inches to Bannon's own myth of himself as a patriotic, tough-minded scourge of the establishment. But if you read the whole thing, you know that Bannon's racist views came through:
[Julia] Jones, [Bannon's] film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’"
I don't think it's a virtue to write about a purveyor of hate speech "without judgment or loaded terms," but if you're going to make that choice, you'd better be sure the facts speak for themselves -- and in Shane's piece, they do, at least some of the time. I can live with that.

Is it necessary to call Bannon a racist in a piece in which his racism is on display? After the events of the past year, I have no idea. What I mean is I have no idea anymore what works, what in a work of journalism gets across the nature of a bad person.

Do we remember the moment when there seemed to be a sincere effort in the media to refer to Donald Trump's lies as lies, to portray him as remarkably untruthful even by the usual standards of politics? We thought he'd made it through the primaries because coverage of him was too gentle; we believed his election would be thwarted by gloves-off treatment of his mendacity (and his bigotry, and his harsh treatment of women, and his corrupt business practices).

It didn't work. He still became our next president. The tougher coverage didn't disqualify him in the eyes of 62 million voters, and may have made some of them more determined to vote for him.

So I think it's necessary for the press to tell us about the profound character flaws of Bannon, Trump, and others in Trump's administration. But putting LIAR or RACIST in big screaming letters in a headline doesn't seem to make any positive difference. Too many Americans just don't have a problem with racism, or with lies or sexual thuggery or fraud if the perpetrator is an SOB they like.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

ENJOYING TRUMP'S FOREIGN POLICY SO FAR? WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.

BooMan reminds us that it's not just Taiwan:
If Trump is being advised by lunatics now, that's a problem. And if he's just so ignorant and pig-headed that he doesn't know or care what he just did by having his staff arrange a call with Taiwan, that's not a bold way of violating pointless norms. It's extraordinarily dangerous and portends all kinds of problems for our country, the world, and the prospects for peace between nations.

I cannot understand how Trump was allowed to offer a state visit to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines. It's beyond belief. That absolutely cannot happen. Figuring out how to handle Duterte and our longstanding relationship with the Philippines is a real conundrum, and a ton of work would have to be done before we could even think of rewarding Duterte with a state visit. Honestly, I don't think it would ever be justifiable.

And Trump cannot go plodding into Pakistan-India relations without getting a briefing from the State Department. They are nuclear-armed powers on constant alert against sneak attacks from each other, and it's unimaginably irresponsible to speak with either government without carefully considering the implications of every word you're going to say.
If Trump is cozying up to vigilante murder advocate Duterte, that's frightening -- but it might just be a warmup for next year.

Consider the fact that the party of racist Geert Wilders is currently leading in the polls in the Netherlands. Far-rightist Norbert Hofer is neck-and-neck with his Greens Party opponent in the race for Austria's presidency. And white nationalist Marine Le Pen could conceivably win the French presidency.

I assume Trump's going to roll out the red carpet for all of these folks if they win. He's not just going to accept the results of these elections -- he's going to prioritize the normalization of these governments. He's going to lavish the winners with more praise and a warmer D.C. welcome than he's going to extend to, say, Angela Merkel.

Yeah, it's going to be a fun four years.

****

UPDATE: Election results are in, and Norbert Hofer lost.

MAYBE THIS IS MORE FRIGHTENING, BUT THAT TAIWAN CALL LOOKS LIKE A CALCULATED ACT

I'm sure you know about this:
President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.
We're assured that this was not an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment act:
A senior adviser to Trump suggested that he knew about the long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan when the call occurred.

“He’s well aware of what U.S. policy has been,” Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with CNN on Friday night.

Conway bristled when asked whether Trump was properly briefed before the call on the government’s long-standing policy...

“President-elect Trump is fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues ... regardless of who’s on the other end of the phone,” she said....

Trump communications director Jason Miller told reporters Friday that the calls are not off the cuff.

Trump and Pence “are briefed in advance of their calls, obviously working with the teams that we have put together,” Miller said before news of the Duterte call had broken....
My first thought when I learned about this was that Trump was just going it alone, because there's money to be made for the Trump family:
The Taiwan News reported that Trump’s company was sniffing around Taiwan’s Taoyuan City in September, and according to Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, were considering building luxury hotels and resorts there.

Per Taiwan News: “A woman working for the Trump Organization came to Taoyuan in September, declaring the company’s investment interest in Taiwan’s Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a large urban planning development project surrounding the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.“

The outlet also said that Eric Trump, Trump’s son, is considering visiting Taiwan to look business opportunities for the company.
More:



But as Josh Marshall notes, there are Trump advisers who are likely to see this as a good idea for reasons not related to the Trumps' bank accounts:
There's already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation.
Here's Taiwan's China Post on Priebus:
Priebus, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), met with President Tsai Ing-wen prior to her election....

Foreign Minister David Lee told a legislative session Monday that Priebus' appointment was "good news for Taiwan" given his familiarity with Taiwan-U.S. affairs.

The future chief of staff had maintained good relations with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S., Lee said, adding that he was "happy to see Priebus receive such an important position because he has been a friend to Taiwan."

Lee mentioned Priebus' previous visits to Taiwan, including a trip for the R.O.C.'s centenary celebrations in 2011.

Priebus also met with a delegation of Taiwanese lawmakers visiting the U.S. in July....

In his new position, Priebus would serve as a "channel" for maintaining Taiwan-U.S. relations, according to an unnamed source close to the matter cited by the United Evening News.

"There will definitely be no problems for Taiwan-U.S. relations," the source was quoted as saying.

Priebus has been considered over recent years as one of Taiwan's strongest advocates in Washington.

During the Republican National Convention in July he led efforts to include the "Six Assurances" -- which were agreed by Ronald Reagan in 1982 and ensure the sale of defensive arms to Taiwan -- for the first time in the party's platform.
And John Bolton wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January called "The U.S. Can Play a 'Taiwan Card'":
For a new U.S. president willing to act boldly, there are opportunities to halt and then reverse China’s seemingly inexorable march toward hegemony in East Asia....

An alternative now would be to play the “Taiwan card” against China. America should insist that China reverse its territorial acquisitiveness, including abandoning its South China Sea bases and undoing the ecological damage its construction has caused....

If Beijing isn’t willing to back down, America has a diplomatic ladder of escalation that would compel Beijing’s attention. The new U.S. administration could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department; upgrading the status of U.S. representation in Taipei from a private “institute” to an official diplomatic mission; inviting Taiwan’s president to travel officially to America; allowing the most senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business; and ultimately restoring full diplomatic recognition.
I think Trump's primary interest is his wallet. But I also think he's getting the okay from advisers, who have agendas of their own. So, um, I guess we'll be at war, or at least in a cold war of sorts, with China soon.

Friday, December 02, 2016

IN WHICH I AGREE WITH COREY LEWANDOWSKI

I am in no sense a Corey Lewandowski fan, but something he said at the Harvard campaign managers' gathering yesterday is on target:
“Embracing Mr. Trump’s wealth and not running from it,” Lewandowski said, “was a strategic decision that we made early on.”

He continued: “The reason we did that is because he looked at the Romney campaign from four years ago and loves to tell the story that Mitt would drive somewhere and get out of the car, get in a Chevy, take a truck and pull up in a Chevy and pretend he wasn’t as rich as he really is.

“And he [Trump] said, no, no. I’m gonna pull up in my 757 and I’m gonna make sure everybody sees the giant Trump plane. If I can’t get that one, I’ll pull up in a private plane somewhere and we’re gonna have the most expensive cars. And I’m gonna do it so everyone understands what this country’s all about.”
During the last presidential campaign, I said on several occasions that Mitt Romney would benefit from showing some swagger regarding his wealth. Here's what I wrote in August 2011, when we learned about Romney plan to do a massive enlargement of his California house:
Why is tripling the size of one of his houses a potentially brilliant move? Remember where we are in the election cycle. The general election is more than a year away -- we're entering the Republican primaries. Who's going to vote in those primaries? Ayn Rand junkies. How do they feel about rich people? They adore rich people.

... Start the work now! Show everyone the blueprints! Release an artist's rendering and make the thing look huge! Wait for us liberals to really pounce on you for flaunting your wealth -- then watch the wingnuts rally to your defense!
In February 2012, I wrote:
... I think if he can't talk about his wealth in a way that's big-pimpin', he could at least put it into a narrative with a hero and a villain. The hero would be himself and all the brave, beleaguered millionaires and billionaires. The villain would be all us evil commie liberals who don't want people like him to succeed, dammit!

You put your success in those terms and you can talk all day about Cadillacs and $10,000 bets and liking to fire people -- as long as the rubes also hear you say, or imply, "And I bet you'd like to be rich and fire people, too. And you know why you can't? Because the damn liberals tax you too much and are systematically destroying the free enterprise system! It's their fault you're not rich!"
And Doug J. reminded me a while back that I wrote this about Trump in 2011, when he seemed as if he might be on the verge of joining the 2012 race:
But can’t you see him magisterially propelling himself into an Iowa state fair, or down a main street in small-town New Hampshire, in a motorcade of Escalades? And are we really sure that couldn’t work ... ?

…. I’ve always heard that campaigning in the early states was an exercise in humility -- the pigshit on your Gucci loafers at the Iowa state fair and all that. But is it different now on the right? Does the base want to prostrate itself before a plutocrat overlord, and not hold him to the same standards as mere mortals?
I'm pretty sure that that's precisely what happened in the past year and a half.

As Mike Konczal writes in a Medium post today,
Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.

It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization --  moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.

Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.”
Heartland white voters don't resent the rich, except when they collude with the "elites," who are (paradoxically) not the rich but, rather, the evil cabal in Washington (and Hollywood and the news media and academia -- basically any demimonde in which some of the powerful are Democrats). Money in and of itself? Not a problem to those voters.

So Romney should have flashed the cash. He should have acted as if he enjoyed being rich, and as if he wanted to share prosperity with the proles. That's what Trump did, and he's the next president.

SETH MacFARLANE IS MAKING SENSE

There's a lot of truth in this:



I'd extend this to big-city dwellers and urbane Americans in general. Look, white working class, we get it: You know how to do a lot of things that many of us can't do very well. You know how to farm and hunt and fight wars and build buildings and assemble complex machinery. Many of you do physical labor. We don't. But even you generally acknowledge that our crowd produces the slickest fraudsters and thieves. Our bullshit artists are the absolute best at screwing people.

And that's the point: We know these frauds. We live among them. We work with them. They're our co-workers, our bosses, our landlords. We have to understand how they operate as a simple matter of self-preservation.

So when we told you that Trump is a dangerous, lying sociopath, you should have believed us. For us, recognizing slick predators is a necessary life skill. That's true in our world even if you're not near the top of the food chain like Seth MacFarlane.

I'm not saying this out of disrespect for the white working class. You folks have skills that we don't. But in this case, the skills we have would have benefited you, because you got fleeced.

ONE DOWN, 62 MILLION TRUMP VOTERS TO GO

I suppose there could be a fair amount of this over the next four years:
When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington, D.C. And she knew Trump's pick for Treasury -- Steven Mnuchin -- all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

"I just wish that I had not voted," said Colebrook, 59. "I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in."

... Over five years, she tried unsuccessfully to adjust her loan with OneWest through the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program. But she said that One West Bank lost paperwork, provided conflicting statements about ownership of the loan and fees and submitted charges that were unverified and caused her loan balance to balloon....

Colebrook said she is still challenging the foreclosure in court.
I'm sorry it took Colebrook until now to realize that Trump is a con artist. Other voters will eventually discover that.

But just as Trump can't really save or bring back all the manufacturing jobs with a Carrier deal here and a Carrier deal there, he can't personally betray all 62 million of his voters. You'll say, as Paul Krugman does today, that he's likely to betray millions of them all at once when he signs the repeal of Obamacare. But I think Republicans will find a way to replace Obamacare with something, and the inadequacy of the replacement will become obvious only gradually.

In the meantime, Trump will just keep rallying the base against the usual enemies, the way he did last night in Cincinnati. He'll have the occasional policy win, and he'll promise that wall construction is going to get under way in earnest any day now, and that ISIS is going to get hit so hard very, very soon.... Americans will eventually catch on to him, I guess, but it's going to take years.