Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Goodbye for now -- I'll be away for the rest of the month. While I'm gone, the relief crew will be here with news and opinions on the latest infuriating doings. Stop by for all that, and I'll see you on March 1.


During the presidential campaign, CNN's Jodi Enda interviewed a lot of Republican voters. Some of them were extremely wary of Donald Trump when the primaries began -- and yet now they're generally very positive about him. Why does Enda believe this is the case? Unlike Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times, Enda doesn't raise the possibility that Trump is a hit with Republicans because those evil liberals are so mean and nasty in their protests and online criticism. Enda strongly suggests that Trumpers simply like Trump:
In the beginning, they didn't care for Donald Trump.

"Trump's a buffoon," David Searles said before casting a vote for Marco Rubio in the New Hampshire primary.

"He scares me," Rebecca Meyer said before settling on Ben Carson in South Carolina's primary.

"He's not presidential," Gail Francioli said after backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich in that state's primary.

Yet like nearly nine out of 10 Republicans nationwide, Searles, Meyer and Francioli supported Trump in the general election. And like the vast majority of Republicans, they support him still.
Tavernise argued that Trump's solid support is the result of "moral Bolshevism" among progressives -- for instance, we post "Trump supporters swipe left" on dating sites, which, of course, is just what Stalin would have done. But Enda reminds us that Trump already had solid Republican support on Election Day, before anyone ever saw a demonstrator in a pussy hat. She quotes interviewee after interviewee who was wary of Trump a year ago but likes him now for the simple reason that he's saying and doing things they support:
"I'm ecstatic! It's a breath of fresh air," Judy Griffin exclaimed when I asked her about the nascent Trump presidency. "The country was going on a near-death experience collision. Political correctness was about to strangle us all." ...

Griffin, formerly the director of development for a Christian school, described herself as "very conservative" and "very pro-life." She said she wants Trump to take on ISIS because "you have to confront evil." She also wants him to rebuild the military, reduce the national debt and bring back jobs -- things she criticized former President Barack Obama for failing to do....

[Gail] Francioli offered a substantial list of subjects on which she agrees with Trump. "He's going to increase the military, going to protect this country, build a wall, border control, Obamacare," she said. "He's bringing jobs back." A regular participant in church-led marches outside an abortion clinic, she added that she expects Trump to place further restrictions on the procedure....

[David Searles] favors Trump's push to roll back regulations that Searles said have "stifled" businesses, including the software company that hasn't been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.

Internationally, Searles said he is optimistic that the US will "have a stronger presence on the world stage." He appreciates Trump's tough talk.

"I felt that the Obama administration was preoccupied with not offending people..."
Trump attacks the media. How does that resonate with his voters?
Like many Trump supporters, Housel is not troubled by negative news reports about Trump. In fact, she shares his assessment that journalists are not always honest (though she said she felt sheepish about saying that to an actual journalist).

"I was raised as a young girl not to trust the media," she said. Housel told me that her father, an Army veteran, offered this cold counsel: "If you're ever in a wartime situation, shoot the guy with the camera and then the enemy."
Yeah, I could see how a person raised that way might respond to Trump.

Enda's interviewees still have a few problems with Trump. But they agree with him on issues. It's not as if they would suddenly reject him if protesters would just lay down their pink hats and picket signs. They want a freeze on immigration from Muslim nations. They want judges picked by the Heritage Foundation. They want what he's promising them.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Former Saturday Night Live comic Joe Piscopo might run for governor of New Jersey:
Mr. Piscopo is hoping to parlay his Jersey credentials and rising political profile — he campaigned for President Trump, and his radio show focuses on conservative politics — into a long-shot bid for governor as either a Republican or an independent in a state where Democratic voters vastly outnumber Republicans.
And Laura Ingraham might run for Senate in Virginia, where she's currently neck-and-neck with another non-politician:
Former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and radio host Laura Ingraham are polling dead even in the Virginia Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Friday.

The two would face off in a Republican Primary before challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who recently concluded his bid for vice president under Hillary Clinton.
And both Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are being talked about as possible Senate candidates in Michigan:
... musician and conservative activist Theodore Anthony “Ted” Nugent won’t rule out a bid for the U.S. Senate....

Nugent said he would have to decide if his candidacy would “provide meaningful upgrades and improvements in the American quality of life for the most productive and truly needy amongst us.” ...

Nugent would be the second rocker to have his name floated in all the chatter about the upcoming election. Kid Rock has also been named as a possible candidate. Wes Nakagiri, a county co-chair of Trump’s Michigan campaign, told The Daily Caller there is movement behind the scenes to get Kid Rock to enter the race.
I keep hearing that the Obama years were devastating for Democrats, who reportedly have no "bench" of candidates for future elections. Republicans, we're told have a very deep bench. So why all the possible stunt casting? I know that running a non-politician media star worked for Republicans in the 2016 presidential election, but that was only with the help of Putin, Assange, Comey, and a lot of vote suppression.

Quinnipiac says that Ingraham would lose a general election to Kaine by 20 points (and Fiorina would lose to him by 21). I haven't seen general-election polling in the other races, but even with Republican governors, Michigan and New Jersey don't seem to have developed a lot of GOP talent. Then again, the Republican bench in the 2016 presidential primaries actually appeared deep, but we see how that turned out for the politicians in the field.

Meanwhile, Democrats already have candidates ready to run in November for 45 seats held by Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates. Two years ago, they challenged only 21 Republicans. I haven't heard that any of these people are celebrities. They're just citizens. Maybe bench strength is shifting.


Milo Yiannopoulos is Having A Moment right now -- he has a book in the works, he just set off a riot at a scheduled campus appearance, his Bill Maher appearance just aired and went viral, and he's gearing up to be the keynote speaker at CPAC. Oops -- but this just happened:
... on Sunday morning, less than one day after the controversial announcement about the CPAC speaker lineup, video surfaced of Yiannopoulos allegedly defending pedophilia in the past.

“We get hung up on this sort of child abuse stuff,” Yiannopoulos is heard saying in a video, acknowledging that he has a controversial point of view, “to the point where we are heavily policing consensual adults.”

“In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents,” he added.

“It sounds like molestation to me,” an unnamed person tells Yiannopoulos in reply, likely an interviewer. “It sounds like Catholic priest molestation to me.”

“But you know what? I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him,” Yiannopoulos replied....
This is on an episode of the Drunken Peasants podcast. But wait, there's more:
In an interview with comedian Joe Rogan in 2015, Yiannopoulos discussed his sexual relationship with “Father Michael,” which he allegedly had as a teenager at age 14.

During the interview, he even tried to normalize pedophilia.

“So you’re saying you’ve never seen a 15-year-old girl, at any point in your life, that you thought was hot?” Yiannopoulos asked.

“Yeah, when I was 15!” Rogan replied. “I’m not retarded dude.”

“No, when you were 25 or 30, you’ve never seen girls you thought were hot?” Yiannopoulos asked again.

“No, I thought they were little kids!” Rogan said.

Later, Rogan called “Father Michael” a “terrible person” for allegedly having a sexual relationship with Yiannopoulos when he was a young teenager, but Yiannopoulos tried to downplay it.

“It wasn’t molestation,” he alleged

“That’s absolutely molestation,” Rogan shot back.
Yiannopoulos defended himself on Facebook in a post titled "A Note for Idiots," in which he wrote:
I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst.
But in the Drunken Peasants clip he talks about "this arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent" and makes clear that he doesn't consider sex between a man and a teen to be pedophilia:
You're misunderstanding what pedophilia means. Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody thirteen years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.
Will Yiannopoulos's career as a professional troll survive this?

After elements of the right embraced Camille Paglia many years ago, her career didn't suffer from the revelation that she'd written this:
As far as [Allen] Ginsberg's pro-NAMBLA stand goes, this is one of the things I most admire him for. I have repeatedly protested the lynch-mob hysteria that dogs the issue of man-boy love....

Allen Ginsberg was the apostle of a truly visionary sexuality.... Ginsberg's celebration of boy-love was pure and sinless, demonstrating the limitations of Judeo-Christian paradigms of sexuality.
And this:
These days, especially in America, boy-love is not only scandalous and criminal but somehow in bad taste. On the evening news, one sees handcuffed teachers, priests or Boy Scout leaders hustled into police vans. Therapists call them maladjusted, emotionally immature. But beauty has its own laws, inconsistent with Christian morality. As a woman, I feel free to protest that men today are pilloried for something that was rational and honorable in Greece at the height of civilization.
Yiannopoulos is clearly trying to attain a higher level of superstardom than Paglia ever was. (In the Bill Maher appearance he refers to himself as a "pop star.") And Paglia has never tried to brand herself as a purely right-wing figure. But those quotes didn't hurt her at all on the right.

It's possible that right-wingers will see Yiannopoulos as a bad ally because support for pedophilia is one of the charges they love to level at Islam. And it's possible that right-wingers will remember their "traditional values" moral code, which they set aside when a thrice-married pussy-grabber seemed likely to be a more effective vanquisher of liberals than their usual pols.

But the right's history with Donald Trump makes clear that "family values" are dead, except when applied to non-conservatives. Yiannopoulos expresses contempt for gay people and (especially) trans people, which makes him useful to the right.

I think Yiannopoulos will suffer a setback or two. Maybe he'll be dumped by CPAC this year. (UPDATE: He's now been disinvited.) But his following is conservatism's new base. They won't abandon him. They'll buy his book. They'll watch his inevitable return appearances on Maher's show. They'll show up for his campus speeches, as will Black Bloc-ers trying to shut him down. Yiannopoulos will continue to infuriate liberals, which is the right's prime directive. If he needs to, he'll keep gaslighting us with regard to his past pedophilia remarks, until the right believes he was never a pedophilia advocate. ("Fake news"!) He'll survive.

(Paglia quotes via Atrios.)


UPDATE: Here comes the gaslighting, in a new post on Yiannopoulos's Facebook page:
I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim.

I would like to restate my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I am horrified by pedophilia....

I do not believe sex with 13-year-olds is okay. When I mentioned the number 13, I was talking about the age I lost my own virginity.

I suppose it's possible that Yiannopoulos's career will really suffer as a result of this. If it does, I fully expect him to orchestrate some sort of moment of transformation -- treatment for substance abuse or sex addiction would be my guess -- after which he'll claim he's emerged a changed man. This will happen only if he can't continue to find an audience for his right-wing trolling. If that con no longer works for him, he'll try to reinvent himself as an apolitical, famous-for-being-famous wit and raconteur, a Monti Rock III for the 21st century. (Ask your parents, kids.) He'll probably wind up being the center square in a 2030 reboot of The Hollywood Squares.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Progressives have been protesting Donald Trump since his inaugural and -- bafflingly -- huge segments of the Trump electorate haven't switched sides and joined the resistance. What's wrong with the left? Why haven't the minds of millions of Trump voters been changed already? It's been a whole month!

That's essentially the argument of "Are Liberals Helping Trump?," a New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise. Instead of asking whether it's a difficult task to change minds across the ideological divide in a highly polarized electorate, Tavernise accuses Trump opponents of engaging in ideological thuggery:
But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.
Tavernise draws this conclusion after interviewing three "moderate conservatives" (wow, huge sample size!). Let's meet one of them:
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”

Mr. Youngquist stayed in the closet for months about his support for Mr. Trump. He did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on a vacation in China. Even dating became difficult. Many people on Tinder have a warning on their profile: “Trump supporters swipe left” — meaning, get lost.

He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”

“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.
Tavernise suggests that Youngquist's support for Trump was lukewarm, and was largely a reaction to Trump opponents. Let's take a look at what he posted on Facebook a week and a half before the election and see if that's really the case:
The election has hit a boiling point for me. I am a #NeverHillary supporter more than ever now. I am convinced Hillary and her team are running one of the most crooked campaigns in history. Hillary’s past as a public servant contains so much shadiness. If you only watch/read CNN, NYT, Washington Post and NPR, you may think that Hillary has made only a few less-than-poor decisions. The mainstream media has been a huge force in this campaign painting Hillary as an angel. I do not trust Hillary and her potential administration in the White House. Below is just a brief list of Hillary and her campaign's shadiness.

McAuliffe/Dr.Jill McCabe/FBI Investigation
Getting debate questions ahead of time (Donna Brazile)
Treatment of Bernie
Anti-Catholic campaign emails
Hillary explaining about how she has a Public vs. Private position
Nonstop pay to play
Clinton Foundation accepting millions from awful human right countries
Weiner Investigation connections
2nd FBI Investigation 11 days before election day
Obamacare/HillaryCare - premium hikes
Scott Foval
Obama's homie Robert Creamer (340 WH visits)
Bill Clinton & everything there...
Benghazi (blame it on a youtube video)
33,000 Emails
Desire for "open borders"
Dirty Campaigning (Project Veritas videos)
Inciting riots in Chicago at Trump Rally
Mainstream media & HRC campaign conspiring
Received subpoena & then deletes emails
Hillary's questionable health
Bill Clinton (getting disbarred, lying etc etc)
Murder of Seth Rich

Trump may not be a saint but I am going to cast my vote for him. I am pushing to have an outsider in the White House. I can’t stand the corrupt career politician such as Hillary. Everyone laughs when Trump says "She has bad judgement." Can anyone prove that she does have good judgement? Can she be trusted with our country's security concerns!?! Can any Hillary supporter defend her on that!?! DC needs change and Trump/Pence is the answer I believe for the next 4 years. Trump is not the most polished figure out there (that may be an understatement) but he sure is a hell of a lot better than Hillary. I am hopeful that Trump & Co can turn this country in the right direction. Economy, healthcare, security... Make America Great Again!
Benghazi? Check. Emails? Check. Suspicions of Huma Abedin that go unstated because, well, it's just so obvious why she's a problem? Check. Invocation of James O'Keefe videos? Check. Assumption that the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign were "conspiring"? Check.

There are a couple of pro-Sanders items on Youngquist's list -- but, of course, we know that the Trump campaign (and its official and unofficial surrogates) exploited Democratic primary tensions to help Trump. And please note the last item on Youngquist's list:
Murder of Seth Rich
Click on the #NeverHillary hashtag in Youngquist's post and you see, among other things, this:

There's still no evidence that Rich's death was anything but a street crime gone lethal. Rich's father is certain that he wouldn't have leaked the emails. He was planning to take a job with the Clinton campaign. And rumors that he was the leaker were stoked by Wikileaks.

If you're wondering about the image above, the tell is in the reference to gun control. This wasn't the work of a progressive.

Youngquist isn't a "moderate" voter. He's someone who binged on fake and semi-fake news throughout the campaign, almost all of it from the right. Eventually he parroted the talking points for his Facebook friends. The anti-Trump movement largely consists of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, someone Youngquist despises, yet Tavernise thinks he might have joined the resistance by now if the anti-Trumpers hadn't been so darn mean.

Oh, and did I mention that Youngquist attended Trump's inaugural? Seriously -- Tavernise thinks that someone who attended a presidential inaugural might turn against the president within a month of that event? It's not as if she doesn't know about his attendance -- there was a story about it in the Times. She wrote it.

One of Tavernise's other "moderates" is Jeffrey Medford:
Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way.
A conservative Republican small-business owner from South Carolina "should be a natural ally for liberals"? Really?

The other is Ann O'Connell:
“I don’t have a problem with protesting as long as it’s peaceful, but this is destroying the country,” said Ann O’Connell, 72, a retired administrative assistant in Syracuse who voted for Mr. Trump. “I feel like we are in some kind of civil war right now. I know people don’t like to use those terms. But I think it’s scary.”

Mrs. O’Connell is a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton twice. But she has drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. She remembers Mr. Clinton giving a speech about the dangers of illegal immigration. Mr. Trump was lambasted for offering some of the same ideas, she said.

“The Democratic Party has changed so much that I don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “These people are destroying our democracy. They are scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics. It strengthens people’s resolve in wanting to support President Trump. It really does.”
O'Connell says she voted for Bill Clinton twice. Notice which Democrat we're not told she voted for, even once. She thinks protesters are worse than terrorists, but, more important, she's angry at the Democratic Party. I don't care about her voter registration. She's effectively a Republican. She might come back to vote for Jim Webb or Joe Lieberman, but that's not going to happen. She's lost to us

All of these people are on Team Democrat Hater. None of them will come around to the anti-Trump movement -- no matter how nice we are.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Politico acquired an audio recording of Donald Trump speaking to the assembled guests at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, back in the early days of the transition. The key revelation -- that Trump invited guests to "come along" while he was interviewing potential cabinet members -- is unsettling enough:
“We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump told the crowd, according to an audio tape of his closed-press remarks obtained by POLITICO from a source in the room. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government."

"We’re going to be interviewing everybody — Treasury, we’re going to be interviewing Secretary of State,” he continued. “We have everybody coming in — if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable….so you might want to come along.”
But I'm struck by what Trump said about David Schutzenhofer, the club manager at Bedminster, whom he chose to decorate the White House.
TRUMP: And are we all liking David? And tell me, where is David going next week? Where are you going next week?


TRUMP: To the White House. [Applause.]

David is going to prepare the White House so it's in good shape so we can immediately start working on ISIS and various other things. [Cheers.]
Schutzenhofer -- a golf club manager -- is going to make it possible for Trump to "start working on ISIS." By redecorating. Trump apparently couldn't focus on ISIS otherwise.

In case you think perhaps Schutzenhofer's area of expertise extends into the foreign policy realm, here's his bio on the website of Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he's an adjunct professor in the International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Professor Schutzenhofer began his career in the hospitality industry as a teenager and has managed numerous private clubs in the New York Metropolitan area since 1989. He studied culinary arts and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Johnson and Wales University, Providence Rhode Island in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management and a Masters of Science Degree from New York University Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Travel.

Prof. Schutzenhofer is an 18 year veteran in club management holding positions at Scarsdale Golf Club, Hartsdale, New York, Orienta Beach Club, Mamaroneck New York, Forest Hill Field Club, Bloomfield New Jersey, Navesink Country Club, Middletown, New Jersey and is currently the General Manager and Executive Director at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump sees this man and his thought is: I can't really fight ISIS until David completes his work, can I?

Well, recall this detail from a New York Times story about Trump's early days in the White House:
For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.
Oh, but I'm sure that was only because he needed excellent window covering options before he could give ISIS his undivided attention.


I have mixed feelings about this New York magazine cover story:

To some extent, it's the usual breathless worship of McCain:
It was not yet two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and McCain had already become the fiercest Republican critic of the new administration. While party leaders like Paul Ryan were contorting themselves to defend even Trump’s most ill-conceived executive orders, McCain had been, for a member of the president’s party, on fire: He had criticized Trump for banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, for his failed first mission in Yemen, for his suggestion that he might lift sanctions against Russia; he even took diplomacy into his own hands, reaching out to Australia to assure the country of our continued friendship after Trump had bizarrely confronted its prime minister in their introductory phone call.

... he has watched as allegations about Russian involvement in the election — and possibly in American foreign policy — picked up steam, and as Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national-security adviser after revelations that he improperly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador (and then lied to the vice-president about it). To McCain, these are red-line issues. No matter how much he likes the prospect of deregulation, the compromising of America’s sovereignty was pushing him closer to the barricades.
On the other hand, McCain is portrayed as a Republican first and foremost:
McCain is not a Republican in Name Only; he is a true believer, an elder of the tribe. He does not exactly relish being deemed the loyal opposition....

McCain shook his head at the notion that just because he had the temerity to criticize the president, congressional Democrats thought they could recruit him to their cause. “These are the same Democrats that shredded me in 2008,” he said. “I get along with the Democrats, but please, I’m not their hero. They’re trying to use us. We will work with them, but have no doubt, their agenda is not our agenda.” ...

“The Democrats are just off the reservation. They’re crazy the way they’re behaving,” McCain said to [Supreme Court nominee Neil] Gorsuch. “As for hearings, I’ve never seen anything like this. Just keep your flak jacket on. Steady as she goes.”
My first reaction to this was similar to Atrios's:

But that's how this works in the Beltway and the elite media: We as citizens can mount all the "resistance" we want, and we can hold congressional Democrats' feet to the fire until they're voting with us, but disgust with Trump doesn't become legitimate until it's endorsed by at least a few Republicans, because nothing becomes legitimate until it's endorsed by Republicans.

I don't think a focus on McCain necessarily "sucks all the air out of actual opposition" -- we have to keep fighting our fight until the Kewl Kidz are forced to take us seriously -- but in the meantime, if this is what it takes to make the Kidz believe that Trump is bad news, let's accept it and work with it, knowing full well that McCain will be a GOP loyalist at many, many key moments. We have to become a bigger movement than they're expecting. But for now this might help.

I've always felt that insider journalists lean culturally liberal -- they work in big Eastern cities, so they're cool with reproductive rights and LGBT rights and gun control and DREAMers and all that. These journalists occasionally become enamored of a progressive-seeming politician (e.g., Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign). But they turn up their noses as soon as a politician tries governing as a Democrat -- e.g., Barack Obama in 2009 and beyond -- even if, as in Obama's case, the politician isn't all that far to the left. As Josh Marshall says, D.C. is permanently "wired for Republicans."

The insiders never like Democrats in the actual act of presidenting or legislating. So they'll never respect the resisting Democrats in Congress as much as they respect the fitfully resistant McCain. I wish it were otherwise, but those are the rules.

So let's accept this and work with it. I suspect it won't amount to much -- McCain and sidekick Lindsey Graham will stand up for foreign policy traditionalism while all the other Republicans continue to suck up to Trump -- but if I'm wrong and McCain someday helps persuade enough Republicans to approve a serious investigation of Trump's fifth-columnism, there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, it won't be enough, and most of the time he won't be with us. But we have to just keep fighting our own battles.



Friday, February 17, 2017


Courtesy of Business Insider's Natasha Bertrand, we seem to have an explanation for the apparently false National-Guard-as-deportation-force story:
The White House quickly denied an explosive Associated Press report published Friday morning that said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was seeking to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops to round up and deport immigrants living in the US illegally.

"It is false," the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said, according to a pool report. "It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants."

"I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted," Spicer added.

An AP reporter, however, replied that the wire service had asked the White House for comment multiple times before publishing the report, which was based off of a leaked DHS draft memo....
This seems to be a pattern for the Trumpers:
1. Wait for a draft memo of a proposal to be leaked to the press.
2. Refuse to comment when asked about the draft.
3. Wait to dispute a story's accuracy until the story is published.
4. Accuse the press of never having sought comment to begin with.
Bertrand quotes a number of reporters who've noticed this pattern. She also quotes the press secretary to Congressman Keith Ellison, who's noticed it, too.

The Trumpers are so determined to demonstrate bad faith on the part of the mainstream media that they're floating fake stories, refusing to comment on them, then saying they were never given a chance to deny them. But why? How does this help them accomplish any goal connected to governing? Do they even care about governing? Look, I don't want them to do any of the things they say they want to do in the governing realm, but I understand why this right-wing writer is frustrated (in response to a now-deleted and subsequently updated tweet by the president that's part of the press demonization campaign):

Do the Trumpers even want to do any of those things? It seems that they just want to pound on the press --or maybe it's just the president. The most powerful job in the world, and all he wants to use it for is, in effect, yelling at the TV. Bizarre.


Almost as soon as this report broke, it was denied by the White House:
The Trump administration considered a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Staffers in the Department of Homeland Security said the proposal had been discussed as recently as last Friday.

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico were included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The denial:
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday the document was "not a White House document."

"There is no effort to do what is potentially suggested," he said. Spicer called the AP report "100 percent not true, adding that there was "no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants."

So what's going on? The Moscow deputy bureau chief for Bloomberg Businessweek thinks it's eleven-dimensional fascist chess:

But if that's how this was meant to work, you'd think the Trumpers would want it to hang in the air a little longer before issuing a denial. And you'd think they'd want to clear the news cycle a bit, to give it some breathing room. We still haven't stopped talking about yesterday's Trump press conference; this got wedged in between that press conference and what could be another Lenny-Bruce-shortly before-his-death moment, Trump's appearance today at Boeing, which is happening as I type.

Also, why propose a deportation force (authoritarian) and give governors an opt-out option (wussy)?
Governors in the 11 states would have had a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo....
There's no way the Democratic governors of California, Oregon, and Colorado are going to say yes, and I'm not sure about the Republican governors of purple New Mexico and Nevada. It's as if the Trumpers want to come off as jackbooted thugs, but nice jackbooted thugs -- jackbooted thugs who say "Please."

It's my opinion that this would be very popular among white voters across the country, including some now-wavering moderate conservatives. So why not just do it? Get it written, get it vetted, get it done? I think it's because there's a crazy-idea shop in the West Wing (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller), but there's no one who's skilled at putting policies into effect, which requires a minimal ability to interact with other human beings and coordinate with those other human beings on implementation. So the White House executive-order-and-memorandum shop is basically a federally funded version of a regular column at a wingnut online news site -- heavy on extreme ideas, but with not much skill at follow-through.

This might still happen. I just don't know why it isn't happening already.


The undisciplined preadolescents in the White House are the biggest impediment to an extreme-right transformation of America, but it's also true that Republicans in Congress can't agree on detailed plans to destroy all the things they've been promising to destroy for years. We know they've spent years promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, only to discover that all their healthcare ideas would horrify the public. But they also can't agree on a key element of the tax overhaul they want so much, as Politico reports:
Paul Ryan showed up to Senate Republicans’ weekly lunch on Tuesday hoping to salvage a controversial pillar of his tax reform plan that would change how imports and exports are taxed. “Keep your powder dry,” the House speaker pleaded.

The next day, Sen. Tom Cotton took to the Senate floor to slam Ryan’s so-called border adjustment tax, saying “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”

“Many other senators share these concerns and we most certainly will not ‘keep our powder dry,’” Cotton went on, without naming the speaker in his speech.

The sequence was an ominous sign for a linchpin of Ryan’s tax plan — and perhaps for the prospects of tax reform happening at all. The border adjustment tax would generate more than a trillion dollars over a decade; there’s no obvious way to replace that money, which is needed to help pay for a steep cut in corporate and income taxes.
I assumed that with a Republican in the White House they'd have no qualms about running huge deficits in order to slash taxes for corporations and the rich, but it seems that some of them actually believe their own talking points about deficits and debt. So they're trying to offset the huge cut in revenues -- and Republicans don't like the method Ryan has chosen.
Many Republican senators say privately they detest the concept, fretting that it will hurt their in-state retailers like Walmart, which is headquartered in Cotton's state of Arkansas. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), sources said, has warned Trump and Ryan that border adjustment won't likely have the support needed to clear the Senate....

That’s not to mention Ryan’s issue in his own chamber. A handful of Ways and Means Republicans — including some with close ties to Trump — are fretting that retailers slapped with an import tax will ultimately pass the cost onto consumers.
So this is another dog-that-caught-the-car issue for Republicans, just like Obamacare. But do you know who actually likes the border adjustment tax? Darth Vader himself:
Ironically, the speaker seems to have a strong ally in Bannon, the ex-boss of Breitbart News, which attacked the speaker mercilessly during the campaign.
Well, of course he likes it. Recall what I told you last week: Bannon is a believer in the generational theories of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who foresee a crisis point for America in which citizens will need to suffer in order to reach the Promised Land. They've written:
... new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention.
And Bannon said in 2010, foreseeing this moment of crisis:
“We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don’t have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you.”
So he has no problem with a tax that will passed on to consumers. The president presumably has no idea that this tax or the tax he proposed during the campaign, a levy on imports, will be passed on to consumers. And congressional deficit hawks don't want either.

So the GOP dysfunction is at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. To me, that's a relief.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


So this happened today:
After stewing in anger during four rocky weeks in the White House, President Donald Trump had his say Thursday.

He spent 80 minutes in an impromptu East Room news conference shredding his critics, relitigating the election, bragging about his crowds, crowing about his accomplishments and denying, deflecting and obfuscating a series of mushrooming bad stories that have dogged his presidency and depressed his approval ratings....

In Trump style, the news conference was heavy on braggadocio....

"There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time," Trump said, reading a list of his own accomplishments.

He said his administration is a "finely tuned machine" ...
Before the hour-plus session was over, Trump had told a reporter from a Jewish publication that his question about rising anti-Semitism was very unfair and to sit down....

He ripped into CNN repeatedly.... The president also lashed out at “fake news” repeatedly, even while spewing falsehoods. He said he’d had the biggest electoral landslide since 1984. Not true.... He then said he’d been given “misinformation” about the size of his electoral win.
Shorter Trump today:

But that's what conservatism is now -- angry white people saying "Respect ME, dammit!" and insisting that everyone who doesn't agree with them deserves to be harangued or intimidated into silence.

Whether it's white working-class voters demanding an end to "political correctness" and Mexican and Muslim immigration, or alt-rightists harassing opposition voices on the Internet, or billionaires describing progressive protesters as Hitlerian, the message is: Those people are the scum of the earth, and they should just shut up forever. I'm talking now. Listen to me. Listen only to me and my allies.

During the campaign, many concerned political observers asked, "What does conservatism stand for now?" This is what it stands for. It stands for I have the floor, so you just shut the hell up.


Let's rosin up an itty-bitty bow and use it to play the world's most minuscule violin:
Congressional Republicans, who craved unified control of the government to secure their aggressive conservative agenda, have instead found themselves on a legislative elliptical trainer, gliding toward nowhere.

After moving to start rolling back the Affordable Care Act just days after President Trump was sworn in last month, Republican lawmakers and Mr. Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised. Efforts to come up with a replacement for the health care law have been stymied by disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. The same is true for a proposed overhaul of the tax code.

The large infrastructure bill that both Democrats and Mr. Trump were eager to pursue has barely been mentioned, other than a very general hearing to discuss well-documented needs for infrastructure improvements. Even a simple emergency spending bill that the Trump administration promised weeks ago — which was expected to include a proposal for his wall on the Mexican border — has not materialized, leaving appropriators idle and checking Twitter.
Some of this is because Republicans believed their own worse-than-Hitler hyperbole about Obamacare and were blindsided by the fact that some people actually like the program and are angry about repeal plans. Some is because Republicans never realized that it would be ridiculously easy for Democrats to reverse-engineer GOP obstructionist tactics, for which Republicans, of course, paid no political price.

But the big problem for congressional Republicans seems to be that they're still waiting for the unsupervised, sugar-rushing, ADHD third graders who now make up the executive branch to settle down and do some serious work:
... The inactivity stems from a lack of clear policy guidance — and, just as often, contradictory messages — from the Trump administration, which does not appear to have spent the campaign and transition periods forming a legislative wish list....

Congressional Republicans seem wary of offering their own bills, lest Mr. Trump or one of his aides, who have largely been distracted by personnel and intelligence scandals, undercut their efforts. This was most visible when Mr. Trump demanded that Republicans come up with a replacement plan for a health care law they had hoped to simply repeal, sending members flailing. The administration also gave conflicting messages on a tax plan embraced by House Republicans that would apply the corporate tax rate to all imports while exempting exports.

“On our side, it’s pretty clear who drives policy,” said a Republican aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being written about by Mr. Trump on Twitter. “But take any issue and try to figure that out from their side.”
Just write the bills, you idiots. Do you seriously think this administration remembers its own pronouncements from one day to the next, however angrily delivered they may be? Do you think the president remembers?

If you're really afraid that you can't proceed on legislation without first having it carefully crafted by the White House, then you're going to be waiting a long time. The only work being done in this White House that's even vaguely along those lines seems to be the crafting of executive orders that are more like manifestos from a radical group that's actually one foul-smelling sociopath in a cabin in Montana.

Well, congressional Republicans, you bought this ticket, so take the ride. You thought Trump would govern like a normal person. You thought he really meant it when he said he'd surround himself with "the best people." You thought he'd "grow in office." Welcome to a hell of your own making.


David Frum is dismayed because his fellow conservatives in Congress remain loyal to the president, so he tries to sweet-talk them into dumping Trump:
Here’s something to consider. Trump has never shown much enthusiasm for the congressional agenda of reforming Obamacare and reducing taxes. He has developed no plans, and his White House staff is not structured in a way likely to produce such plans anytime soon.

Without presidential leadership—and with the visible and traditional disagreements between House members who mostly hold safe seats, and senators vulnerable to state-wide electorates—it’s hard to see how anything gets done in the next session. Congressional Republicans are now at risk of wasting this rare chance, risking an all-Republican government accomplishing nothing beside Trump’s self-aggrandizement and corrosion of constitutional government. That will suit Donald Trump fine. It can hardly suit Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.

Suppose Mike Pence were president now. Tax-reform legislation would be hitting the floor of the House. A competent White House staff, headed by people with intact reputations for honesty, would be hammering out the compromises necessary to repeal healthcare reform. A functional National Security Council would be generating options for responding to Russia’s cheating on arms-control treaties and aggression in Ukraine. Democrats and liberals would be assailing congressional Republicans on immigration and abortion—not espionage and treason. Instead, their hopes, their interests, their constituencies, and possibly their careers are all at risk, subordinated to the personal imperatives of a president who does not share their principles and does not care about their party.
But here's the problem: There's no reason to believe that congressional Republicans really care all that much about repealing Obamacare, restricting abortion, or the rest of the right-wing agenda. Sure, they always have cared about these things. But what they really care about is getting reelected forever. In the past, that was accomplished by doing whatever Fox News, the Koch brothers, the religious right, and the NRA told you to do. Now the important thing is doing whatever Trump wants.

It's true that President Pence would assemble a team of professionals who'd efficiently set to work dismantling Obamacare, the Great Society, the New Deal, and the Progressive Era -- or at least they'd be a lot more goal-oriented about all that. They'd work seamlessly with Republicans in Congress. There'd be no distractions. Everyone would be rowing in the same direction.

But GOP voters still believe that Trump is the strongest possible leader, a financial mastermind, and a preternaturally gifted dealmaker. Plus, he clearly hates darker-skinned people much more than Pence does.

And they also think he cares about the Fox/Koch GOP agenda as much as they do. (He does -- he just gets so distracted when someone insults him, or says he didn't win a landslide, or when Vladimir Putin does that thing he does when he smiles and the corners of his eyes crinkle.)

So Frum's plea is going to fall on deaf ears. Republicans in Congress aren't going to quit Trump, because their voters won't.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Yesterday, at the Washington Free Beacon, Adam Kredo speculated that Michael Flynn was ousted by a sinister cabal with a very specific aim:
The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump's national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.

The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn's credibility, multiple sources revealed.

The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration's efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.
Today, Haaretz reports this:
In the bigger picture, the loss of Flynn on Trump’s team will surely come as a deep disappointment to those in Israel who counted on his uncompromising stance on Iran and Islamic terror to influence the direction of Trump’s policy....

The Israeli hard right loved Flynn. When he was first named to his post, right-wing pundit Caroline Glick wrote in a celebratory piece that he “is far-sighted and determined, and locked on his target: Iran.” She expressed her belief that “Trump intends to bring down the Iranian regime as a first step toward securing an unconditional victory in the war against radical Islam.”
But in a normal presidency, the departure of one adviser -- even a top adviser -- wouldn't result in the radical remaking of a president's policy. A president presumably has opinions of his own, and if they're strong opinions, you'd expect them to keep policy relatively consistent regardless of who the advisers are.

Trump certainly talks as if he has firm opinions on the Iran deal:
... Trump called the nuclear pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated" during his campaign and said it could lead to a "nuclear holocaust."

In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in March, Trump declared that his “Number-One priority” would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”
Trump said the same thing in the interview with Bill O'Reilly that aired on Super Bowl Sunday:
“I think it was the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated,” Trump told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly in an interview that aired prior to the Super Bowl.

The president continued: “I think they have total disrespect for our country and I understand that deal. I would have lived with it if they said ‘OK, we’re all together now,’ but it’s just the opposite. It’s like they’re emboldened. They follow our planes, they circle our ships with their little boats and they lost respect because they can’t believe anybody could be so stupid as to make a deal like that.”

Trump said it was a “deal that never should have been negotiated....”
But Flynn is gone, and now we assume that Trump isn't determined to scuttle the Iran deal and isn't particularly angry at the Iranians. That's not normal. He's the president. He said he was angry at Iran and unswervingly opposed to the deal, and that should still be true.

But, of course, this is Donald Trump we're talking about. I suppose he really might not care about Iran if the next person to whisper in his ear on the subject says the regime's behavior is acceptable and the deal really isn't bad at all. I think the Free Beacon's theory is off base, but if you wanted to completely upend Iran policy in the Trump White House, it's likely that you could do it just by targeting Flynn. He really might have been Trump's brain on this. Who knows what Trump believes about Iran now?Do you think Trump knows?


So, like everyone else, I'm reading this New York Times story...
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
And this CNN story...
High-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence, multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials tell CNN....

Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn.
I'm amazed that the wheels are coming off this quickly. I'm listening to well-meaning hand-wringers who wonder whether it's a good thing that the national security apparatus is leaking this way. But I'm struck by the fact that the Trumpers involved in this didn't even seem to realize that their conversations would be monitored.

I know that the average person on the street might not realize that U.S. agencies routinely monitor the phone calls of Russian intelligence officials. But this was a big-league presidential campaign. Sure, the campaign was full of people from outside the world of politics and government, starting with the candidate. But Flynn worked in military intelligence and then was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Manafort was a longtime Republican operative and had a lot of dealings in the Russian sphere. Did they really not understand that what they were doing was known to our intelligence agencies? Was this ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both?

The president is too ill informed to realize that he shouldn't deal with a national security situation in a public dining room, or allow ordinary citizens to take photos of the officer holding the nuclear football for him. But his crew was no more circumspect before the inaugural, even when scheming to undermine the international order. What's wrong with these people?