Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Here's item #2 on Breitbart's list of "seven key facts" about Kamala Harris, who officially entered the presidential race yesterday:
2. Kamala Harris barely won her first race for California Attorney General in 2010. As in many of the 2018 congressional races in California, Harris won despite losing on Election Night: “Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley had declared victory on election night, only to see the race flip-flop between the two candidates in the coming days as counties around the state continued to tally mail-in and provisional ballots,” SFGate.com reported.
Without saying it outright, Breitbart's Joel Pollak is implying that the candidate who's "losing on Election Night" should automatically be declared the loser, even though that ignores how California elections work. It's routine for large numbers of mail-in and provisional ballots to remain uncounted on Election Night -- yes, Cooley led (and declared victory) a few hours after the polls closed, but he was trailing by the following morning, although the race wasn't officially called until a couple of weeks later. Cooley conceded -- he didn't pursue a recount and didn't level any charges of fraud.

The Breitbart piece compares Harris's 2010 victory to the wins by many California Democratic House candidates in 2018. Paul Ryan and other Republicans want those victories to be under a cloud of suspicion.
A growing chorus of Republicans are casting doubts about the integrity of the voting system in California, where the party lost at least six House seats in the midterm election — including a handful where the GOP at first appeared to have emerged victorious on election night.

A sentiment that began as a murmur among hard-line conservatives jumped to the Republican mainstream Thursday when House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that the state’s “bizarre” voting system “just defies logic to me,” and may have contributed to the GOP’s historic thumping in California.

"We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race," Ryan said Thursday....
Like fringe-right allegations that she's not a "natural born citizen" because she was born in America as the child of two immigrants, the suggestion that Harris won a key race in her career through electoral shenanigans won't be a major part of the right's assault on her if she's on the 2020 Democratic ticket. But your right-wing relatives will definitely mention it on Facebook. It'll be out there.


UPDATE: Sorry, did I use the word "fringe" in reference to the birther allegations about Harris? They may have started at list sites like this one, but they've moved in from the fringe:

Jacob Wohl, an Internet troll who plotted to smear special counsel Robert Mueller as a sexual predator, has launched a new conspiracy theory falsely suggesting that Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is not an American citizen....

Harris was born in Oakland. She's a citizen. Case closed.

Monday, January 21, 2019


The Daily Wire reports:
A member of the Polish Parliament for the governing Law and Justice Party, Dominik Tarczynski, reacted to the incident involving the Catholic students from Covington Catholic High School and a Native American former Marine, Nathan Phillips, at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday by inviting the students to speak to the Polish Parliament.

Dominik Tarczyński tweeted, “Dear Covington Catholic students, I’d like to invite You to the Polish Parliament. After watching this video, I am now standing up for these wrongfully accused young men and all of you! You are very welcome to come and speak out what you believe in!”

... The party’s main base of support comes from older, religious people who have conservative principles and come from rural areas and small towns.
That would be this Dominik Tarczyński:
Polish lawmaker Dominik Tarczyński has stuck to his guns following a frank interview on the migrant crisis with Cathy Newman, insisting his government will not take a single illegal migrant because that is what his party promised before the elections.

The Channel 4 presenter ... had demanded to know how many “refugees” Poland had taken, to which the Law and Justice Party (PiS) politician replied: “Zero.”

“And you’re proud of that?” Newman demanded.

“If you are asking me about Muslim illegal immigrants, none, not even one, will come to Poland,” Tarczyński repeated....

“We can be called ‘populists’, ‘nationalists’, ‘racists’, I don’t care — I care about my family, and about my country.”
He considers himself a sort of modern day crusader: “We are fighting for the Christian values. We are Christians. We are not Christians in name only. We can be called Modern Crusaders because there is a war going on. It is a war of civilisations.”
Congratulations, kids -- you're now heroes of global illiberalism. Mash notes from Viktor Orban in Hungary and various Le Pens in France are likely to follow. Enjoy the ride!


So I was just reading a Politico Magazine piece that's a few days old, by a group of researchers who've determined that most of America has no idea how rich Donald Trump was at birth and how much help he had in his business career. When they're told the truth, their belief in his business confidence drops.
What happens when Americans learn of the president’s privileged background? In a 2018 survey, we provided half the respondents the following question, which was intended to impart Trump’s biographical information: To what extent were you aware that Donald Trump grew up the son of wealthy real estate businessman Fred Trump, started his business with loans from his father, and received loans worth millions of dollars from his father in order to keep his businesses afloat?

... this information does have noticeable and statistically significant effects on evaluations of Trump’s character....

The difference is, I guess statistically significant -- but it's far from overwhelming. Most Republicans continue to believe Trump is a business genius, an idea most Democrats already questioned. There are similar statistics regarding perceptions of Trump's empathy before and after poll respondents learn about his life.

I was thinking of this when I turned to a big story on the front page of the New York Times site. Written by Russ Buettner and Maggie Haberman, the piece tells us that Trump is handling the government shutdown the way he handled many of his business deals.

It's not a flattering story. There's a lot in it about Trump's business failings. He comes off as amoral, ruthless, and not particularly shrewd:
“I think he was always a terrible negotiator,” said Tony Schwartz, co-author with Mr. Trump of “The Art of the Deal.” ...

During his years in business, Mr. Trump earned a reputation as someone whose word meant very little. When a commitment he made no longer made sense, he walked away, often blaming the other party with a fantastical line of reasoning.

To win financing from Deutsche Bank to build a Trump Hotel in Chicago, for example, Mr. Trump personally guaranteed $40 million of the debt. When he could not make his payments during the 2008 financial crisis, Deutsche Bank executives were open to granting him more time to repay the loan, a person briefed on negotiations later recalled.

But before a compromise could be reached, Mr. Trump flipped the script. He filed a lawsuit and argued that the bank had helped cause the worldwide financial meltdown that essentially rendered Mr. Trump unable to make his debt payments. At the time, Deutsche Bank called the lawsuit “classic Trump.”

The bank eventually settled with Mr. Trump, saving him from having to pay the $40 million. Mr. Trump expressed his gratitude to the lawyer who fought on his behalf by not fully paying his bill. “He left me with some costs,” said the lawyer, Steven Schlesinger.

... scores of lawyers, contractors, engineers and waiters have sued Mr. Trump for unpaid bills or pay. Typically, he responds by asserting that their work did not meet his standard.

That might sound familiar to furloughed federal workers. Mr. Trump recently retweeted an article, attributed to an anonymous senior official in his administration, arguing that 80 percent of federal workers do “nothing of external value” and that “furloughed employees should find other work, never return and not be paid.”
It's unflattering, and yet somehow it all comes off as ... legendary. Larger than life. Buettner and Haberman are trying -- they depict Trump as contemptible and frequently unsuccessful; they start and end with the failure of the Trump Taj Mahal. But the story appears under an aggrandizing headline, and with a photo Trump himself might have chosen:

Why this picture? The New York and national media spent so many years depicting Trump as a figure of (phony) glamour and power that they can't shake the habit -- there are just so many photos like these in the morgue and they all look great on the front page, don't they?

And so even failure looks larger than life with Trump. The media spent decades creating a monster, and now it's too late to un-create him. The myth is impossible to dislodge -- though it would be nice if some effort were made not to try to reinforce it, the way this presentation of the Buettner-Haberman article does.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


When my friends and I were high school freshmen and sophomores -- in other words, probably a year or two younger than the kids we've all seen in those Covington Catholic videos -- we'd spend a lot of time just walking around the city of Boston. This was 1973 or so. I was from a neighborhood of the city that was monochrome and provincial; downtown was where we could have encounters with oddballs and unusual ideas.

We'd see half-crazed protestors, like the woman with an inexplicable animus against CBS ("Columbia Broadcast System sells the dope! And then the news. How you gonna lose?") There were proselytizers preaching hippie Christianity (the "Jesus freaks" of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," a widespread phenomenon at the time), some of whom were more unsavory than we realized. (The Children of God, later known as the Family, were a pedophile cult; I still have some of their flyers.) There were the Scientologists, whom we knew even then not to get involved with. (Although a couple of friends, when I wasn't around, did take a Scientology personality test on a lark. They then found it extremely difficult to leave Scientology headquarters without surrendering an address, so one friend gave a fake address -- mine, except with a house number that didn't exist on my street. The ruse worked.)

I think back on us and I like us. I like our curiosity. We made value judgments -- we knew the CBS woman was not in her right mind -- but mostly we wanted to see the show.

Years later, after I'd move to New York for school, I'd see the Black Hebrews near Times Square, or just north of Macy's. This would have been around 1980. Obviously, none of the Black Hebrews who appeared on video with the Covington Catholic kids were the same ones I'd seen nearly forty years earlier, but the act was the exactly the same: bait the crowd with racial rhetoric and toss in some sexual innuendo for good measure. One man does the haranguing, but he occasionally calls on a subordinate to read a Bible verse as supporting evidence. There's a lot of pseudo-science, and a simultaneous use of and disdain for racial labels. (Caucasians are "so-called white people.")

The Black Hebrews were (and are) the insult comics of streetcorner prophecy. I recall briefly arguing with them (until I grasped how pointless it was), but I don't recall trying to bait them or silence them. I was generally a solo city walker at this point -- I wouldn't have been at all intimidating -- but I can't imagine wanting to do them harm. What was the point? They didn't seem to be getting through to anyone.

These were my thoughts as I watched the videos conservatives told me would compel me to rethink my view of the Covington Catholic incident. My initial reaction to the incident wasn't "Doxx them! Expel them! Never let them hold a job or appear in decent society again" -- they're teenagers, and they might become very different people one day. (On Twitter, Arlen Parsa makes this argument well.) On the other hand, I didn't think the kids were blameless, and I still don't. I think that smirk is exactly what it first appeared to be.

What we know now is that the kids were watching the Black Hebrews in the minutes before their encounter with Native drummer Nathan Phillips. The lead Hebrew preacher sees them and immediately insults them -- "A bunch of incest babies. A bunch of babies made out of incest." He expresses contempt for the MAGA slogan. An associate says, bizarrely, "If you're the best nation, get rid of that lice on your back."

The kids react by trying to make their own spectacle, alongside the Hebrews but at some distance. They seem to be doing school chants; one kid strips off several layers of clothes and stands shirtless in the cold, to his classmates' delight.

This goes on and Phillips enters. I don't know if the kids think he's associated with Hebrews, whom they're still keeping at some distance. But Phillips and another man walk right up to them, drumming and chanting. The kids' right-wing defenders think the Native drummers are the ones being hostile and aggressive.

But Phillips thinks he's bringing healing music to these kids (as one of the Black Hebrews says on their video); he's also, in a way, acting like a pop star who's decided to stage-dive into the crowd; and maybe he's imagining this as Tiananmen without the tanks. What he's not doing is taunting anyone.

The smirking kid seems to think he's the Tiananmen hero, refusing to give ground. But come on, kids -- this isn't a threat, it's a drummer. Register what you're seeing and respond accordingly. Either watch or walk away, but don't try to turn it into a confrontation. (Phillips, I think, tries to turn it into an encounter, which is not the same thing.) The man with the drum doesn't mean you any harm.

My friends and I would have watched. Maybe we'd get bored, or bewildered. Maybe we'd have been dismissive or contemptuous afterward. But it would be one more thing that happened to us because we were out in the city, where anything could happen, so why not experience it?


At the new anti-Trumpist right-wing site The Bulwark, Bill Kristol posts a message from Bruce Gyory, a longtime New York state political operative.
... The slippage we anticipated for Trump’s standing in terms of public opinion from the shutdown is coming to pass.

The slippage is the worst kind—the slow erosion of support from key blocs: swing voters (independents and suburbanites) and those who put Trump over the top (blue collar white men and Republicans over 60).

... Trump’s job approval rating is down to 31 percent among independents in Gallup.... The Marist data for PBS shows a drop of 10 percent in job approval among Republicans and a decline of 11 percent among white evangelicals and 17% among suburban men.

... Blue collar white men being turned off from Trump shouldn’t surprise anyone, for they know the difficulty of living paycheck to paycheck. This, plus the skew of the tax cut package, spells political trouble for Trump long term, especially if a slow down, much less a recession, looms in 2020.
Gyory adds:
As an aside, it’s fair to ask why hasn’t this decline in the polls registered more with pundits and pols. I wonder if it’s because Gallup is not doing daily tracking polls anymore?
No, that's not the reason, at least when it comes to pundits.

Mainstream media commentators don't want to believe that Trump is unpopular. They like the legend of 2016: that nobody saw Trump's victory coming because frou-frou elitist journalists (i.e., themselves) didn't spend enough time in Pensylvania diners absorbing the raw, elemental essence of Real Americans.

Even after the 2018 midterms, they want to believe Trump is still popular. They believe that the House election results (40 new Democrats) prove only that the Democrats are a niche party, competitive in cities and Whole Foods-y suburbs, especially when they're running female candidates. In 2020, they still expect Republicans to run the table in America, which is elsewhere.

This point of view would have some validity if commentators acknowledged the GOP's anti-democratic approach -- prevent portions of the Democratic-leaning majority from voting; take advantage of gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and the small-state skew of the Senate; use Trumpian rhetoric to sustain the loyalty of Republican niche voters. If pundits believed that this was a shrewd GOP strategy for maintaining minority rule of America, then you'd understand why they might not be willing to acknowledge Trump's poll decline -- he might still have the voters he needs to win this rigged game. (That's basically what I believe.)

But they seem persuaded that Trump's voters are the true Americans, while Democratic voters are rootless cosmopolitan interlopers. I think they want Trump to be five points down in the polls on Election Eve 2020, so they can beat themselves up again for missing the True American mood.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


The Washington Post story about President Trump's new shutdown proposal suggests that what he's proposed has already been rejected by both sides:
President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty....

Trump’s proposal was pilloried by some of his most fervent supporters, including conservative author and commentator Ann Coulter.

“Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” Coulter tweeted.
But the Toronto Star's ace Washington reporter, Daniel Dale, warns us not to read too much into that:

A Free Republic thread in response to Coulter's comments confirms Dale's observation:
I like Ann but she is ALL wrong here..first of all, its NOT amnesty..a 3 year protection is NOT amnesty, its basically saying “You can live here for 3 years no worries” Trump KNEW Dems would reject it..he’s making THEM look like the fools they are..come on Ann don’t you realize that


Does anyone still give a rat’s @ss what Ann Coulter thinks?


I wish this attention whore would choke on a chicken bone. She was pushing us to vote for mitt mitt mitt!


Ann’s “best if used by date” expired a long time ago.


Ann, for God’s sakes trust POTUS!


Coulter? Who wanted Chris Christie and Romney to be prez? That didnt age too well. How dare this bitch criticize Trump’s clever political gambits. She is a moron.
The reaction to the proposal in Breitbart comments is also mostly positive:

So, to the MAGA base, the God Emperor is still the God Emperor, regardless of what Ann Coulter says.

My favorite game theorist on the right, Hot Air's Allahpundit, believes the proposal is dead in the Senate -- it won't get the need 60 votes and might not even get 50.
Virtually all of the red-state Dems who might have struggled with this offer were up for reelection this past November. The ones who survived, like Joe Manchin, won’t have to worry about facing voters again until 2024, an eternity in the Trump era when political developments move at light speed. The only Dem who *might* throw POTUS a bone here purely out of self-interest is Doug Jones, who’s facing a longshot reelection bid in Alabama next year. But Jones has been stubborn since joining Congress; he hasn’t joined Trump on many big votes despite the pressure on him to pander to conservatives back home. (He voted no on Kavanaugh, remember.) I think he’s come to the conclusion, correctly, that he’s a sure loser next year no matter how he votes, in which case he might as well vote his conscience and let the electoral chips fall where they may. So Trump might not even get him.

But let’s say he does. That’s one Democratic vote. McConnell would need seven to beat a filibuster. Who are the other six? And are we absolutely sure that all 53 Republicans will vote yes, if only as a vote of confidence in Trump’s approach? I don’t know that Tom Cotton, for instance, would sign off on even a temporary amnesty.... [For Senate Democrats] to lunge at Trump’s offer now would mean damaging Pelosi’s leverage and handing the media a gift-wrapped “DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR OVER TRUMP’S OFFER” headline. It would be a clear signal from Senate Dems that Trump is right, that he’s the sensible party in all this and Pelosi is the mindless obstructionist who doesn’t care about federal workers getting paid. The left would be irate at the betrayal. It’s unimaginable that Dems would break ranks in this climate and turn it into a “Senate Democrats versus House Democrats” storyline.
And here's the key point:
...Especially at a moment when POTUS is signaling that he’s tired of the shutdown himself.... He’s coming to the table and trying to jumpstart a deal to end the crisis, a hint that he’s desperate to end this before he suffers any more political damage. Why would Democrats throw him a lifeline? They’ll probably take this afternoon’s speech as a sign that it’s almost over and he’s ready to cave if they hold out just a bit longer.
But maybe POTUS and Kushner believe that, if nothing else, this might invite a Democratic counteroffer that can move the two sides towards a more meaningful compromise. If Jones votes no on “BRIDGE for wall” but comes back with the idea of “DREAM for wall,” what happens then? This is one way to maybe shake that scenario loose.
I think that's what comes next: Democratic disdain will be followed by a counteroffer that might move this all to a resolution. I don't know if Stephen Miller will allow Trump to do what he'd need to do to get this resolved, but if he does, this may end conventionally -- with private discussions and compromise. Or maybe Trump and the hard-liners he listens to won't let that happen. If it does, though, MAGA Nation will be flexible, as long as it can be argued, however implausibly, that he won.


For years I've been warning you that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants to run for president. He has a book coming out later this month that's obviously intended as a campaign manifesto (title: From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America). He's a Democrat, so I assumed he'd be looking for an opening in the Democratic primaries along with a couple dozen other wannabes.

But no -- The Washington Post says today that he's probably running as an independent.
Advisers to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have been exploring the possibility of launching an independent bid for the White House in 2020, according to two people who have been informed of the discussions.
The Post story devotes many paragrpahs to the question of what happens if three candidates pick up electoral votes and nobody wins 270. You may know that the decision then goes to the House, and you may think that's fine -- Democrats control the House. But it's not that simple:
If no candidate wins 270 or more votes, the victor would be decided by the House in a “contingent election,” with each state delegation getting one ballot....

Although Democrats make up a majority of the House, Republicans still have an advantage in the number of state delegations they control, with more Republican members than Democrats in 26 of the 50 states. Democrats are a majority of 22 House delegations. Two states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have an equal number of Republican and Democratic members.
(Yes, here's another constitutional provision that's anti-majoritarian. It's as if the whole damn document is stacked against more populous states!)

But I'm not worried that Schultz will win any electoral votes. No non-segregationist third-party candidate has won a state in a presidential election since 1924, when Fightin' Bob LaFollette won his home state of Wisconsin. (Strom Thurmond won four states in 1948 and George Wallace won five in 1968. John Anderson and Ross Perot never won any states, much less Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson.)

My concern is that Schultz might be too liberal (or liberal-seeming) to win over right or right-centrist voters -- all the votes he'll take will be from moderate Democrats. He'll effectively split the anti-Trump, anti-GOP vote and hand the election to Trump.

I'm less certain of this than I was when Mike Bloomberg was hinting at an independent run in 2016. Bloomberg is pro-gun control, anti-coal, and against large, sugary drinks. This makes him every right-wingers' caricature of a liberal elitist scold. How many GOP votes would he have been able to peel off?

Schultz may have slightly more appeal to the right-center. Back in 2015, when he was first discussing a presidential run, he talked about "servant leadership" -- a favorite notion among American Christians. On the other hand, he praised a Christian leader who's not exactly a favorite of the American right:
... nothing I’ve read or heard in the past few years has rivaled the power of the image I viewed on my cellphone a few years ago: Pope Francis, shortly after his election, kneeling and washing the feet of a dozen prisoners in Rome, one of them a young Muslim woman, in a pre-Easter ritual.
That and the fact that he responded to Trump's Muslim ban by pledging to hire 10,000 refugees won't enamor him to even moderately conservative Republicans.

But can he win any Democratic votes? Here was Schultz last June in a CNBC interview:
Without naming names, Schultz said in a "Squawk Box" interview: "It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left. I say to myself, 'How are we going to pay for these things,' in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don't think that's realistic." ...

"I think the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations," Schultz said. "The only way we're going to get out of that is we've got to grow the economy, in my view, 4 percent or greater. And then we have to go after entitlements."
Even Trump knew better than to talk about going after Medicare and Social Security.

What worries me is that this is the kind of talk that could help Schultz win the media primary -- he'll get great coverage, even as the Democratic aspirants are treated with increasing disdain. If that happens, and if he finds a foothold among a certain crop of moderate Democratic heartland voters, he could take just enough votes from the Democratic nominee in just enough states to throw the race to Trump.

But it's possible that he'll alienate voters on both sides. It's possible that no one in America wants a CEO president anymore except Trump voters.

Friday, January 18, 2019


In response to BuzzFeed's Michael Cohen story, Frank Bruni argues that Donald Trump was heedless of norms and proprieties as a presidential candidate because he assumed he would lose.
There are several profoundly unsettling takeaways from a breathlessly discussed report by BuzzFeed News that Trump continued to push for a Trump Tower in Moscow deep into his 2016 campaign and later instructed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about that.

But I’m struck in particular by how this revelation, if true, underscores what many Trump observers have long believed, an insight that explains so much about his eccentric campaign and unethical governance: He never really expected to be president. More than that, he never really hoped to be.

That’s why he didn’t put business matters on hold or disentangle himself from glaring conflicts of interest. That’s why he refused to yoke himself to the sorts of rules that his predecessors had endeavored to follow.

... His campaign wasn’t a rehearsal for civic leadership. It was a brand-burnishing interregnum, a time-limited adventure in egomania.

“Donald Trump never thought he was going to be president,” the Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien, who wrote “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” told me. “He began this thing as a marketing venture, and I don’t think the people around him thought he was going to win, either. They all jointly saw this thing as a big food fest.”

... Michael D’Antonio, the author of “The Truth About Trump,” told me: “His past is not a past someone brings into the presidency, and he’s not so stupid that he wouldn’t have understood that. And I think he naturally feared the kind of examination that he’s undergone since the election.”
I know a lot of you believe that Trump is in serious trouble if the BuzzFeed story is correct. Obviously we'll know that he's guilty of offenses that merit impeachment.

But the outcome of an impeachment trial in the Senate will be very much affected by public opinion -- and I've been dubious about this story's ability to move the needle from the moment I read it. If you already believe Trump is a crook and is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors (like me), this is confirmation. But if you pay little attention to the Russia story, like many (most?) of our fellow citizens, this might just seem like a businessman doing what comes naturally to him, even though he's running for president. Unless he's directly tied to Russian efforts to subvert American democracy, I worry that the suborning of perjury or the obstruction of justice in order to conceal a business deal isn't going to shock the consciences of those who aren't already committed Trumpophobes.

And the Bruni narrative -- that Trump was sensibly keeping his options open, because he didn't expect to win -- feels like excuse-making for Trump, even though I don't believe Bruni really means it that way. Bruni writes:
But because he wasn’t going to win, it wouldn’t matter that he’d paid off women with whom he’d had affairs, that he’d dispatched Cohen on so many unsavory errands, that he’d surrounded himself with such shady characters, that he refused to release his tax returns, that he forged ahead with the Trump International Hotel in Washington, that he vulgarly insulted the very lawmakers a president would need to collaborate with and that he surrendered any claim to moral authority by trafficking in racism and xenophobia. There would be no consequences because there would be no crown.
Never mind the fact that Trump is president now, and is still violating many of these norms -- this suggests that his run was a big lark and he had no reason to do any of the things we previously expected presidents to do.

At a certain point, one can imagine his lawyer in a Senate trial offering this as an excuse for everything, including collusion with Russians intent on subverting American democracy -- Hey, it was all meant to advance his real estate business. You can't convict a guy for wanting to make a buck, can you?

If America allows Trump to skate this way, we'll be treating him as the spoiled child he is. It doesn't matter what he thought was going to happen. He was a major party nominee. He had a serious shot at the White House by definition. Therefore, he had a responsibility to conduct his life as if he might win -- and if he's as rich as he says he is, he should have just cashed out his holdings and prepared to live the aboveboard life of a well-scrutinized elected official, as so many other businesspeople-turned-politicians have done. He didn't because he's a sleazebag and a crook who regularly assumes he can get away with anything. That would have been true even if he'd had better polling in 2016.


I wouldn't bother worrying about how this "political future" will unfold, because it's not coming:

America is so politically skewed that Republicans are at no risk in the near future of being punished worse than they were in 2006 and 2008 -- after which they didn't show remorse for backing Bush, they merely pretended he'd never been president, while rebranding the GOP as the party of Mitch McConnell obstructionism and Tea Party extremism.

That's the downside risk for Republicans if Trump leaves office with poll numbers as low as Bush's. I strongly doubt that will happen. Bush spent much of his final year in office with job approval numbers in the 20s. Trump has never dipped lower than the mid-30s, and I maintain my certainty that he won't go significantly lower than that -- maybe he'll suffer a dip if he can't get a wall funded, but I don't think his base will blame him even for that.

Matt Yglesias is right:

Trump will never be a figure of disgrace on the right. If Democrats give the GOP a thumping in 2020, Trump may become invisible -- but he'll soon be resurfaced. Expect to see some of these with Trump's face the minute the next Democratic president struggles at all in the job:

And I'm calling it now: There'll be schools and other public facilities named after Donald Trump in deep-red America -- even if he's impeached and removed from office. (It won't be very different from the South naming so many things after Confederate generals.)

Some Republicans would certainly express phony remorse after Trump's downfall if they felt they had to. But I think they'll conclude they don't have to. And given the persistent anti-Democrat hatred in much of America -- a hatred Trump has come to embody -- they'll be right.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Trump retaliates:
In the increasingly personal standoff between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president on Thursday said he was postponing her use of a military plane for an official trip to Belgium, and Afghanistan in apparent retaliation for Pelosi asking Trump to delay his State of the Union Address until after the government shutdown ends.

"Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed," Trump wrote in a sharply-worded letter released Thursday afternoon, the latest move in a memorable display of Washington political theater. "We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over."
The Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody tweets:

How is this "playing chess"? Trump isn't thinking several moves in advance -- it's exactly the opposite. He was deprived of something and now he's deprived her of something. If you're a Trump fan, you think he one-upped her; if not, you think this is childish tit-for-tat. Either way, it's a response to the Pelosi snub and no more -- there's no grand strategy behind it. The one thing it isn't is chess.

Trump's base doesn't want chess. This is what Trump's base wants: a simple, crude act of retaliation. Is it childish? No problem -- childish is good.

Breitbart posted multiple photos of the bus that was meant to take Pelosi and other House Democrats to the airport for this trip, and at Free Republic this led to the Photoshop reaction you'd expect:

And from Mike Huckabee, this kneeslapper:

This may not be the low-water mark for Republican shutdown pettiness. Recall Newt Gingrich in 1995, as portrayed by Lars-Erik Nelson of the New York Daily News.
Here was Newt Gingrich, leader of the Republican Revolution and defender of civilization on this planet, forced to sit for 25 hours in the back of Air Force One, waiting for President Clinton to stop by and negotiate a budget deal. But Clinton never came back. So Gingrich, in his rage, drafted two resolutions that forced Clinton to bring the federal government to a grinding halt.

The extraordinary behind-the-scenes tale Gingrich told yesterday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast is either comedy or tragedy, or junior high school cafeteria intrigue, take your pick. It surely was not what you expect to hear from the stewards of your government.

Gingrich had been invited aboard Air Force One last week to fly to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. With a budget crisis pending, he expected Clinton would take time out during the flight to talk about a possible solution.

But Clinton, who seemed to be genuinely grieving over Rabin's death, stayed up front in a cabin with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush on both the outward-bound and return trips.

Then, when the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole were asked to deplane by gasp! the rear door.

"This is petty," Gingrich confessed. "I'm going to say up front it's petty, but I think it's human. When you land at Andrews and you've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp . . . you just wonder, where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?"

To Gingrich, the professor of history, this was one of the snubs of the century, ranking, he said, with the time Charles Evans Hughes stiffed Hiram Johnson of the California Progressive Party back in 1916, a slight that cost Hughes the California vote and the presidency. And it was this disrespect, Gingrich continued, that caused him to send the President two temporary financing and spending bills he knew that Clinton would have to veto thus shutting down the federal government.
Gingrich is widely admired on the right to this day. He came close to being the 2012 Republican candidate for president. The GOP base likes pettiness.


Axios tries to bothsides the shutdown:
A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows a big part of the reason why the standoff over funding President Trump's border wall has been so impossible to solve: Republican support for the wall is higher than at any time since Trump's election, while Democratic support has dwindled to almost nothing.

The big picture: When the divide has gotten this big, it's hard to see how the government shutdown ends.

Yes, that's a big partisan skew. But read on:
... a majority of the public still opposes the wall....

Overall, 58% of the public opposes expanding the wall along the border with Mexico, while 40% supports it.
So it's not just that Democrats are representing their base -- they're representing the general public. A 58%-40% split does not suggest an evenly divided America; 58%-40% is a resounding defeat for the wall.

We've known for years that Republicans don't believe Democrats are Americans. We know that only conservatives are portrayed as American in the right-wing media (and in the mainstream press every time a reporter makes an anthropological expedition to a rural Pennsylvania diner).

But America is not Republican. The point here is that Americans don't want the wall. Democrats are fighting for what America wants.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Was this a genius move? I'm not sure:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address — or deliver it in writing — as long as the government remains shut down.

The president was set to give his annual speech to Congress on Jan. 29. But Pelosi said the partial shutdown has hamstrung both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, potentially harming the security planning that precedes the primetime address.

"Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th," Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump.
We're being told that this hits Trump in a sensitive spot: his ego. Yes, but it also looks as if Democrats are afraid to let him argue his case (even though he did a terrible job of that in his recent Oval Office speech). CNN's Kaitlan Collins is reporting that the speech was intended as an attack on Democrats:

The partisan takes are as you'd expect, but I think Americans who aren't partisans might come to the conclusion that Democrats are shutting down a message they don't want the public to hear, and are attacking an American institution.

On the other hand, I don't expect that this will be a big deal for most Americans -- they'll forget it in a few weeks. Also, I think Trump will find an alternate way to deliver some sort of State of the Union -- and this is where he's likely to fail.

He might make it an Oval Office address -- which is fine, because he's terrible at reading speeches off a prompter into an empty room. The other possibility will be a speech before a live audience -- maybe one of his rally crowds.

But how is that supposed to work? Those crowds don't want to hear a Stephen Miller prepared speech. They want Trump Unplugged -- improvising, doing favorite bits from memory, doing the "Who's going to pay for it? "Mexico!" call-and-response.

If he has any sense, he'll do one of those and say, "Here's my State of the Union -- take it or leave it." But he probably won't. He'll want to do a real speech, however awkward that may be. And yes, it will be awkward. It will bore the audience. So I think that will be Nancy's revenge.


Gillette's new #MeToo-themed ad has not been particularly well received.

New York magazine's Josh Barro thinks he knows why:
Gillette’s message — that something has too often gone wrong in masculinity, and that men ought to evaluate whether they are doing enough to combat bullying and mistreatment of women — is correct. But the viewer is likely to ask: Who is Gillette to tell me this? I just came here for razors. And razors barely even feature in Gillette’s new campaign.

YouTube likes are running four-to-one against Gillette’s new ad; for comparison, the YouTube response to Nike’s controversial ad with Colin Kaepernick runs seven-to-one in favor. What should worry Gillette is not so much the rebukes from the set of commentators you might expect (like Piers Morgan and Brian Kilmeade) but the lack of an apparent groundswell of positive reaction that Nike got for its campaign with Kaepernick....

Nike’s campaign appeals to customers — and drives Nike’s sales — to the extent it reflects customers’ existing values back at them....
But is that true? The Kaepernick campaign reflected the values of some Nike customers, but conservatives buy sneakers too, and many of them were outraged by the ad.
Nike’s message to customers is uplifting rather than accusatory. It doesn’t urge them to interrogate their roles in societal structures that may cause oppression, let alone the roles played by corporations like Nike. It skips past that, looking toward a solution rather than a problem. The Gillette campaign, by comparison, is a downer.

The Nike ad is uplifting, but outside the confines of the ad, Kaepernick is accusatory (for good reason). Kaepernick does urge white Americans to interrogate their roles in societal structures that may cause oppression. Much of America despises him for that.

And yet the Kaepernick ad worked for Nike, while the Gillette ad, so far, has been a flop.

Apart from the tone of the ads, I think it's because Kaepernick is a hero -- a hero to people of color who are directly affected by the issues he addresses, and a hero to some whites because they also care about these issues. Or we can be cynical and say he's the guy many whites imagine as their hip black friend.

But there isn't a similar figure who's been embraced as a hero/shero/heroine of #MeToo -- not in the ad and not, unfortunately, in the wider culture. And I'm sure there are many men who consider themselves woke enough to embrace Kaepernick's message while they resent the message of #MeToo.

Hip whites' embrace of Kaepernick means that the Nike ad has a larger base of support. I worry that we see a similar skew in electoral politics. Hip whites were far more ready to embrace Barack Obama in 2008 than they were to back Hillary Clinton in 2016, and if you say that's because of her particular flaws, you have to explain why that seems to be true for female candidates considering presidential runs in 2020.

The Nike ad, gratifyingly, had crossover appeal. The Gillette ad, alas, apparently doesn't. That's not just bad for Gillette. It's bad for Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris.