Sunday, June 24, 2018

For the Record: Little Red Hen

The Red Hen.

There's been an awful lot of remarkable derp on the Twitter today, starting with the horrors unleashed on Sarah Huckabee Sanders by the 26-seat Red Hen farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, which sent her party away after consultations between the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, and the staff:

“They had cheese boards in front of them,” Wilkinson said. Like any other family. The kitchen was already preparing the party’s main course. Wilkinson interrupted to huddle with her workers.
Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.
“Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said ‘yes.’ ”
Which, naturally, brought out the 101st Keyboard Incivility Combat Troops:

And eventually old David Axelrod himself:

And Judge Jeanine Pirro, too! You know how big she is on civility!

And this guy:

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

For the Record

Because I was afraid he might delete the original tweet:

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to the safety and security of US borders. I just think we've got that, and have had it since 1815. This is not a security issue. No terrorist has ever made it into our territory from Mexico (McCain kept insisting 9/11 hijackers entered from Canada, but he was wrong). They've all come by plane. Dangerous drugs, which often used to be snuck across in the desert or sent across wall barriers by catapult, now pass mostly through designated border control posts in legitimate-looking cars or arrive via the postal service. It might help our national security to have more immigrants to preserve our vital fruit and vegetable crops before we start having to import all our tomatoes and cucumbers, and ensure the avocado toast supply. It would help our national security to have more immigrants, period. Who's going to pay the payroll tax to keep us all alive when we're really too old to work? Don't talk to me about a few thousand people running away from gang violence in El Salvador, tell me about social security!

What Trump wants isn't for "the citizens of our country" or he'd pay some attention to the security of the thousands whose jobs depend on imported steel. All he wants ("We wants it!") is more excitement.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Getting Old


Kind of like the old bowling league. In these days of crumbling social institutions, emptying churches, declining volunteer fire departments and reading groups, when things start to fall quiet among the breakfast crowd at the Sweet Pie 'n' Bye, you can sense the 2016 nostalgia, and somebody's bound to say, "Say, why don't we call up the New York Times and tell them we're still Republicans? Maybe they'll send down that nice young Jeremy Peters!"

LEESBURG, Va. — Gina Anders knows the feeling well by now. President Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. She doesn’t necessarily agree with how he handled the situation. She gets why people are upset.
But Ms. Anders, 46, a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe, is moved to defend him anyway.
“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities.
“It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.
What Peters didn't mention in his lede, or one of the things, as you might have heard by now, is that Ms. Anders and her husband, when they were living in West Virginia, were the founders of a Tea Party–type activist group, We the People of West Virginia-Jefferson County. He didn't think it was relevant:
That's a telling use of the word "source", the assumption that that's what people are complaining about, as if we're afraid she might give them a biased version of her own thoughts. What story does he think this is?

What story I think it's purporting to be is a kind of exurban anthropology, non-quantitative polling of the mood out there among the Trump voters, and the problem isn't that she used to support Rand Paul, but that she's no kind of typical voter but an insider (though Peters seems strangely unaware that Paul represents the Trumpiest of the standard Republicans, the most opposed to immigrants and unrestrained trade and military alliances, the most Putinist not to put too fine a point on it), not that he can't quote her as much as he likes, but that he should be letting us know, and it feels as if he's hiding it from us, not just by leaving out the Tea Party connection but also by emphasizing her lack of MAGA paraphernalia.

It also rouses the thought that the Times wants for some reason to be telling this story—about the Trump voters doubling down, not so much because they're in love with their man as because of these "overblown reactions" to things like herding small children into prison camps away from their parents and seemingly working to make the parents and children lose one another permanently—and goes looking for people to confirm it, not anthropological subjects to talk about how they feel but journalistic sources to yield up the narrative. I honestly can't understand why they would want to do that, tell me I'm just not cynical enough but I can't think of a cynical motivation that makes any sense to me.

Still, they keep doing it, and speaking of getting old, that's what this trick is doing.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Surrounded by the Pale

Via American Civil Liberties Association.

I'm obsessed with this map (h/t emptywheel), which is being promoted by the ACLU, to make an important point: There are parts of the United States where the Fourth Amendment doesn't fully apply, where the Customs and Border Patrol is authorized to establish checkpoints where they can stop and search anybody without a warrant, on "reasonable suspicion" of an immigration violation or crime, and of course in practice
Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse.
It's just what sounds like a very small part of our enormous country, everyplace that's less than 100 miles from an external border, but it turns out that, as the map illustrates, that covers almost two thirds of the population. Thus the Constitution fails to protect most Americans, a pretty large majority, from these kinds of abuse.

But the map also dramatically corroborates all your suspicions about the craziness of American political geography, as you recognize what's in that 100-mile band: all of Michigan, New England (except a fragment of Vermont), New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, Florida, and nearly all of Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, California, and Washington; and how little there is in the vast interior. That "Flyover Country" they tell us about really is flyover country, in that nobody wants to go there, or has any reason to go there, with the exception of a dozen or so urban areas (themselves probably mostly in a 250-mile band, like Phoenix, Atlanta, Raleigh, Cleveland, I think Minneapolis, though not Denver or Dallas or Kansas City). Otherwise it's truly a kind of nowhere, dotted with tiny white-people shtetls, surrounded by the pale of settlement.

You could feel sorry for them, as the judicious newspapers are always begging us to do, with their isolation and lack of economic opportunity and increasing sense of representing a community in decay, but the thing is, the states with, say,  more than 1.75 representatives in Congress for every million people wield ridiculous amounts of political power! Maybe that's what's the matter with Kansas.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Zen Art of the Deal

Sorry everybody, I didn't realize Steve was leaving so soon and I was busy with something.

Image via Food & Wine.

Peter Baker
 in the New York Times:
His 17 months in office have in fact been an exercise in futility for the art-of-the-deal president. No deal on immigration. No deal on health care. No deal on gun control. No deal on spending cuts. No deal on Nafta. No deal on China trade. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. No deal on Middle East peace. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Syria. No deal on Russia. No deal on Iran. No deal on climate change. No deal on Pacific trade.
Even routine deals sometimes elude Mr. Trump, or he chooses to blow them up. After a Group of 7 summit meeting this month with the world’s leading economic powers, Mr. Trump, expressing pique at Canada’s prime minister, refused to sign the carefully negotiated communiqué that his own team had agreed to. It was the sort of boilerplate agreement that every previous president had made over four decades.
It's really remarkable when you think about it. He's literally in negative territory (having left the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Iran nuclear agreement, with the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA likely to topple next). We'd have gotten more of those precious deals, mathematically speaking, if we'd elected a can of Spam instead.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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.