Friday, August 18, 2017


Steve Bannon is out:
Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday.
The Washington Post tellus in no uncertain terms that he was fired:
John F. Kelly, the retired four-star Marine Corps general brought in late last month as White House chief of staff, has been contemplating dramatic changes to West Wing staffing that included firing Bannon....

The decision to fire Bannon was made by Kelly, officials said....

“This was without question one man’s decision: Kelly. One hundred percent,” one senior White House official said. “It’s been building for a while.” ...

Kelly has no personal animus toward Bannon, said people familiar with his thinking, but was especially frustrated with Bannon’s tendency to try to influence policy and personal matters not in his portfolio, as well as a negative media campaign he and his allies waged against national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

The president, meanwhile, had been upset about Bannon’s participation in a book by a Bloomberg News reporter Joshua Green, “Devil’s Bargain” — particularly the shared photo billing on the cover between Trump and his chief strategist.
But The New York Times accepts the possibility that Bannon quit:
Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
Politico can't seem to settle on a story:
A senior administration official said Bannon had resigned on Aug. 7, but other officials noted that Trump had grown tired of his tactics and behavior and had been plotting ways to oust him.

... even after Bannon had submitted his resignation earlier this month, he still called rampant rumors about his departure “bulls---,” and his allies tried to build support for him. Like other departures in the West Wing, including that of chief of staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer, there are conflicting stories about whether Bannon resigned or was ousted.
The resignation story is just desperate Bannon spin. A few days ago he had a different strategy for dealing with his imminent departure: He did a bad a karaoke version of Anthony Scaramucci's demise, calling up a liberal journalist (in his case, Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect) and holding forth at length, after which he and/or his allies informed Jonathan Swan of Axios that he hadn't realized he was giving an on-the-record interview. Adrian Carrasquillo of BuzzFeed overthought this, describing it as Bannon's "Trump survival plan":
Allies who spend too long in Donald Trump's doghouse usually get sent away for good. Chief strategist Steve Bannon is trying to forestall that fate....

Bannon has now made the calculus that he’s on thin ice regardless, and won't go down quietly, [a] supporter said. "He's saying, 'I’m going to force you to fire me in a public way or we’re going to follow the agenda we were elected for.'"
Now, of course, Bannon is saying he'd already quit by then, but whatever. I think he wanted it to seem as his imminent firing was brought about by the interview -- specifically, that he wouldn't have been fired if the sinister liberal media hadn't published statement he never wanted to be made public.

Bannon just wants us to believe anything except the truth: that his actions displeased the president and other important White House figures, and that he was canned as a result.

The odd thing is that Bannon is one of the few White House tough-guy wannabes who actually served in the military. So why didn't he ever learn how to shut up and take discipline? Man up, Steve.


Hi, I'm back. Thank you again, Yastreblyansky, Crank, and Tom.

The Washington Post's Robert Costa and David Nakamura are describing President Trump's defense of Confederate statues as an effort to rally his base:
President Trump on Thursday assumed the role of leading spokesman for the racially charged cause of preserving Confederate statues on public grounds, couching his defense in historical terms that thrilled his core supporters....

[Some] in Trump’s orbit ... believ[e] there is a potential strategy in decrying identity politics and political correctness — a message that resonates with his base. But even within Trump’s circle, there are those who wonder whether Trump has gone too far and risks alienating some of the swing voters who voted for him last year with hope for change, not racial division.
But the argument about the statues, regrettably, resonates with people outside Trump's base as well, as an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll notes:
... when asked whether Confederate statues should remain as a historical symbol or be removed because they're offensive to some people, 62 percent say they should remain; just 27 percent said they should go.

African-Americans are divided on the question — but a plurality agree they should stay, 44 percent to 40 percent. Two-thirds of whites and Latinos believe the statues should remain as well.

The only groups in which a plurality said the statues should be removed are Democrats, especially those identifying as "strong Democrats," those identifying as "very liberal" and those who disapprove of the president.
A Harris poll finds similar results:
... when asked “Do you think city officials should honor monuments that celebrate The Civil War?” 49 percent agreed.... And 26 percent of Americans remain unsure, suggesting Trump’s slippery slope theory of 'who's next, Jefferson or Washington?' was an effective argument.
Another Trump argument has some support, according to Harris:
... people do not blame only white nationalists for Saturday's violence. Nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) believe both sides are to the blame for violence in Charlottesville (vs. 39 percent who blame the white nationalists alone), lending credence to President Trump’s assertions this week.
The numbers on that question are worse in a CBS poll:

In the CBS poll, Trumps get bad numbers overall for his handling of Charlottesville (34% approval, 55% disapproval). But that poll suggests that Trump is successfully shoring up the base -- or, rather, that the base is with him no matter what. Some of the interviews for the CBS poll took place before Trump's Tuesday press conference, some after -- and Republicans simply stuck with him:
Republicans interviewed prior to Tuesday's press conference were at 68% approval of President Trump's overall handling of the response to Charlottesville and 66% following it — ending up at 67% approval.
So it's no surprise that Trump's numbers in Gallup's daily tracking poll really aren't changing very much. Here's a three-month graph:

You can see the daily numbers as a list here. There was a big dip a few days ago, but the numbers have bounced back. The base doesn't seem "rallied" because the base never really loses faith in Trump. And the rest of the country, while disapproving, seems to believe he's not entirely wrong.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

And Now, the Rest of the Story

Since the election we've seen dozens of sympathetic pieces about the quintessential Trump voters--those beleaguered, disaffected rural white people, left behind by a post-industrial economy and a culture that no longer recognizes the inherent value of their whiteness. And every time another one is published...well, let's just say that there is rough language in my general vicinity.

What exactly is it about these thumbsucking pieces, individually and (even more) en masse, that is so deeply infuriating?

Good question. Let's ask Madyson Turner:
Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after that, and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually.”
Or Alex Romero:
One day, his daughter came home from school, frightened because the other kids were telling her that Trump was going to send all the Hispanics out of the country. He asked her how she responded. “I didn’t say nothing because I didn’t want to get mad,” she replied.
Or Elena Garcia:
When Trump began to gain popularity, Garcia felt betrayed by people she thought she knew, people we both grew up with. Late last year, Garcia began to see a pattern on her Facebook feed. One post said, “I can’t wait for Trump to take over, so we can start building this wall.” A commenter added, “Yeah, and the Mexicans are going to pay for it and work for it.”

She stared at her screen in disbelief. “Some of them I even thought were my friends at one point.”
These are from a piece by Becca Andrews in Mother Jones, about some of the African-American and Latino people living in her native Crockett County, Tennessee. These are the people who have been invisible in all the white-working-class profiles, whose pain and anxiety might as well not exist as far as the WaPo and the Times and all the others are concerned. Andrews' piece is well worth reading all the way through. And it's a start toward remedying the unforgivable exclusion of these people from the mainstream narrative...but it's only a start.

And until the stories of Trump's targets take their rightful place front and center in the mainstream press, J.D. Vance can take his elegy and shove it up his ass, and Chris Arnade is cordially invited to blow the Front Row. I don't give a flying fuck about the shitheads who voted to fuck over their neighbors and 'friends'; I care about the people who are newly vulnerable because of it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Turnout Troofing

Yesterday the Times Upshot ran a piece by Nate Cohn analyzing the 2016 presidential election in terms of what looks to me like another take in the Legendary White Working Class family of takes, identifying the crucial factor in Trump's victory as that particular set of white-no-college voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 but for Trump in 2016, and who are said to have made this remarkable switch mostly out of racial resentment (I actually don't think that's as bizarre as it sounds, but the obvious question it raises, of why a white person who voted for Obama one year would turn around against Clinton out of racial resentment the next time, is one Cohn doesn't even discuss) and then out of disappointment with Obama and then lastly because they agree with Trump's policy prescriptions as they understand them.

Which Cohn does not take to mean that Democrats need to appeal more to racists, even though that's what his data makes it sound like, but that we should take positions more like those of imaginary Trump, in favor of lots of infrastructure spending, and trade protectionism, and relatively relaxed sexual views. The great Zandar of Kentucky, though, hears Cohn thinking it, and he doesn't like it:

What that means is that Cohn is strongly suggesting that in order to be competitive, Democrats have to make a sea change to attract voters that harbor no small amount of racial resentment. Trump was able to leverage that resentment into massive distrust of the Obama administration and Democrats in general.
The problem is that this will come at a cost, and the cost will be borne by black, Latinx, and Asian voters and candidates [and female candidates too, I'd add].  I've said before that this path is suicidal for the Dems and so far Trump is making it incredibly easy to make the Democrats be the party of inclusiveness in comparison by simple dint of Trump's overwhelmingly awful racism, if not open support of white supremacists.

Nor do I.

Both for the range of moral-emotional reasons that make me revolt against the thought of moving the party back into that ugly territory of accepting little homeopathic doses of racism once again, and for the obvious political-science reason that we can't win without the full-hearted support of black and brown people, and abandoning them (or allowing them to feel abandoned) in pursuit of these dubious Trump voters looking for Mr. Good-Dem is just really bad tactics, and probably bad strategy. It's not only wrong, it's dumb to think there are that many of those guys waiting to get picked up.

Which is where I want to go here, just looking at those numbers. Especially, how does Cohn know how many Obama-to-Trump switch voters there are? Before the party starts chasing them, how important a group is it, in fact?

Now, I have my own current theory of the 2016 election, which is that Sam Wang was more or less right, and Clinton had a 95% chance of winning, and it was just that one out of 20 times when enough things go wrong that the outside chance prevails. This doesn't mean I'm claiming that it was a well-run campaign, because I don't think it should have been anywhere near that close in the first place, and I especially can't see why Democrats didn't take the Senate in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but it does mean I'm suspicious of anybody who insists that there's one overwhelming factor, whether it's Russians or all these sour-ass white guys, I just don't believe that's going to work.

I also have my own theory of American politics in general, which is that non-voters and unlikely voters play a decisive role that never gets enough attention from the pandits and apostles. Nearly half the population stays home in a national election in the US, and if they all came out it would certainly change things (this was Bernie's theory—he was just wrong in thinking he would bring them out). And one of the annoying things is the data is never presented in a way that makes it easy for me to figure out what the actual role of the nonvoter in a given election is going to be.

So I'm looking at some of the data Cohn is working with, as examined at Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, which are of very large-scale surveys of eligible voter (as opposed to registered or likely voters or people who definitely did vote) from the American National Election Study, which found that 13% of Obama's voters in 2012 went to Trump in 2016 (6% of total vote)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What part of anti-fascist didn't you understand?

Image via New York Times.

Not long after retweeting (and then untweetting) an image of the Trump train evidently emulating the automobile of that murdering Nazi in Charlottesville to mow down the CNN mascot, Emperor Trump
showed up at Trump Tower to inform the press of a new executive order:
“I’ve just signed a new executive order to reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process,” Trump announced, suggesting that his directive would streamline the process of approving constructions on highways.
But according to my source (the Mic Network), it was actually just rear-ending an order of 2015 from the Obama White House, revising the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
ratcheting upwards the height requirements on federally funded infrastructures so that they might withstand the rising sea levels and more frequent, more extreme storms caused by climate change.
It's get to feel more and more as if Harry Lime is president, working to deregulate antibiotics so industry can be set free on the corpses of children. I have more and more difficulty understanding how we could have gotten here.

Anyhow, he couldn't refrain from making sure you know he didn't mean it yesterday when he came out, 48 hours too late, to name-check white supremacists and neo-Nazis as the guilty parties in Charlottesville horror. Now he's trotting out the whataboutism:
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say alt-right? Do they have a semblance of guilt?” Trump asked of the counter-protesters at the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands? Do they have a problem? I think they do.”
I want to stop here, to take that question a little bit seriously. Is anybody wielding a double standard here? Are we howling about violence on one side and ignoring it on the other?

A couple of things: first, I think I've said this before, I'm an instinctual pacifist, I really hate violence, but I'm even more an instinctual cultural relativist, and I understand most societies throughout human history have tolerated a level of violence that's too much for me, and I have to be careful about judging, in particular about judging the oppressed. And then, like many of us, I'm brought up on the same stories of anti-fascist bravery, on the streets of Weimar Germany, in the battles of the Spanish Civil War, in the French maquis and the Warsaw uprising, in all the places in Southeast and East Asia where people battled Japanese occupation (not to even mention the whole history of anti-colonial resistance from the 13 Colonies to Vietnam), the romance and rightness of resistance.

The people who use the term "antifa" on themselves are nourished by the same stories, and as I understand the history of the word by a sense of mission of protecting people. When the European punk movement was infested by racist skinheads and Nazis in the 1980s and 90s, these are the people who came between them and the harmless apolitical fans. That story just resonates with me.

And in the Charlottesville story as I'm reading it, yes, there was a lot of fighting, and it would be crazy to try to prove it was the Nazis and white supremacists that started it every time (I'm believing stories that the law failed to keep them apart, though), but it's also the case that one side wears ski masks and carries sticks while the other side wears armor and carries assault rifles, and that guy hurtling his car through the crowd (an entirely peaceful part of the group) may have been much crazier than the rest, but he was in the same fascist spirit of being the overwhelming strongest, inside his huge and heavy machine, attacking the weak.

But the other thing is anti-fascists are in the right, just like the Lincoln Brigades and the maquisards and so forth. They're really fighting against evil! I can't see any way around this to moral equivalency. Fascism is bad, the Confederacy was bad, and opposing them is good, even if you're opposing them in a less than optimal way.

And also this:
“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is George Washington next week, and is Thomas Jefferson the week after?” the president asked. “You really have to ask yourself, ‘Where does it stop?’”
Once they start taking down statues of that gallant General Lee, they'll be taking down statues of everybody I like! He really doesn't understand that the Confederacy was a bad country, that deserved to lose the war. It's all a movie, or a Wrestlemania episode, and General Lee doesn't look like a heel, does he?

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thimk, damn it! No no, thimk harder!

This painting, hanging in the lobby of a Trader Joe’s supermarket in Manhattan,
purports to be a New York street scene. But look closely. How did those cars get 
up on that sidewalk bridge? Did they drive up the wall of the kiosk that’s
holding it up? Was the artist thinking? More likely he was only thimking
Like Donald Trump.

Once upon a time, back in the early 1960s, there was a big, prosperous, international company that specialized in making adding machines and typewriters. Its name was IBM, an abbreviation for International Business Machines.

Additionally, the company was futzing with things called computers — room-filling assortments of big, metal-boxed vacuum tubes, flashing and flickering while they spun tapes on which data was recorded. Data got put into the machines by feeding it cards in which holes were punched at various places. The machine would “read” the data on the cards, and manipulate it ways that would enable it to retrieve information it had already been fed, or do the work of dozens of calculators.

At that time, the company had a long-established one-word slogan. It was coined by the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson, a remarkable character who also demanded, on pain of dismissal, that all his employees always wear white shirts with suits that were either blue or charcoal. I don’t recall what the dress code said about ties, but you had better bet it was pretty conservative.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the company was desperately hanging on to its slogan despite merciless parody. Typically, the letters THIN would fill a column, with a K either squeezed into the margins, or placed above the rest of the word with a carat. Another popular parody was meant to indicate that some unthinking sloganeer hadn’t proofread his work. “THIMK,” it said.

By the mid 1960s, parody was the least of the problems with the IBM slogan. Computers were being touted around the media as eerie devices that were going to take away everybody’s job. We’d all become unemployed drones, left without income by the terrible “thinking machines” that we’d be forced to serve.

In retrospect the touting was fairly accurate.  But IBM was not about to take that kind of reputation-wrecking rumor lying down. It launched an advertising campaign in which every headline began with the words, “IBM computers don’t think.” The ads would go on to list human-helping benefits of the machines, such as helping to find rare blood to save a life, or locating a lost ship at sea. I’m familiar with this obscure corner of history because I was the 23 year old kid who was writing most of the ads.

But if computers hewed to the company line and didn’t “think,” what was one to do with a slogan that said “Think” at the bottom of the ads? Well, we got rid of the slogan. And for good measure, we generally added to the text of the ads a thought that computers would “free up people to think.”

Pretty soon the THINK slogan suffered the same fate that Grover Norquist wishes on government. It shrank away until somebody drowned it in the bath tub of history.

Now, thanks to Donald Trump,  the United States is also in danger of drowning in the bath tub of history. We are being sucked threat-by-threat into a potential war with North Korea. We are srattling our sword at Venezuela. It may have been possible to fight massive wars on two fronts during WWII when we have a draft. With today’s all-volunteer army it is not. 

And never mind just two fronts. There's still Afghanistan. There's still Iraq. Iran, too, anybody?

Eric Prince and his private war company, Academi (formerly called Xe, and before that, Blackwater) cannot save us, although if he sells the Trump administration on paying him to conduct a war he may quite possibly bankrupt the nation. 

Yet Trump shoots off his mouth — at North Korea, at Venezuela, at Iran, at….well hell, maybe we can go to war with the entire world. 

While in principle I don’t mind Trump painting himself into a corner, he has also managed to paint the entire United States into the same corner to keep him company. And all the national forests and spectacular landscapes that he turns into coal mines, all the streams and drinking water he poisons, all the social safety nets he destroys in the name of…..whatever, will not save us.

Give him a chance and he’ll shoot off his mouth — via Twitter — about any thing that pops into his head. He’ll support racists until his frantic staff grabs his arm and twists it to make him stop. He’ll create internal chaos and disorganization throughout the government. He’ll insult and alienate potential allies. 

Can’t anybody in the White House think? Or even pretend to think? Of if that’s too much trouble, at least Thimk?


I have some family business to attend to, so I'll be away from the blog for a few days. The relief crew will be here, so stop by.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Yesterday, Fox and Friends hosted Diamond and Silk, two black Trump surrogates who, of course, immediately blamed the racial violence in Charlottesville on Democrats:

"Neo-Nazi groups, the KKK, which was created by the Democrats, all of these other groups, they were all spewing hate and they were all creating violence, and all of them should be condemned and denounced. Period," Diamond told "Fox & Friends."

... "The president cannot be one-sided. He has to look at everything that's going on," Diamond said. "I didn't like the white nationalists, the KKK, the neo-Nazis, David Duke, but I also didn't like Black Lives Matter and Antifa."

When it comes to the Confederate statues, Diamond says to put them in a museum, noting that the Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan.

"We can never let the Democrats forget what they did to out country when it comes to intimidating and manipulating people in order to dominate," she concluded.
This is a point also being made by Dinesh D'Souza, who -- alas for America -- had the good fortune to publish a book titled The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left mere weeks before Charlottesville blew up.

But to the best of my knowledge, even D'Souza hasn't named Hillary Clinton one of the villains of Charlottesville. Diamond and Silk have. Go to 2:52 in the video above.
DIAMOND: Can I just make another point? We had Hillary Clinton saying, "I'm going to start the resistance movement." See, those things are part of the problem, and it needs to be addressed. Because we shouldn't be resisting the administration, the president. We should all be living in harmony and getting along. And we're going to have to learn how to agree to disagree, especially when we have a disagreement in this country.
Yes, we're fighting in the streets because -- gasp -- a Democrat has expressed open disapproval of a Republican. Intolerable! Under those circumstances, plowing into a crowd of left-leaning demonstrators with murderous intent is practically self-defense!

Right-wingers greatly appreciate having their prejudices affirmed by black and brown conservatives. And they love being told that everything bad in the world is part of one many-tentacled liberal octopus.


The message in the first half of this Wall Street Journal editorial is: We are condemning the neo-Nazi right, and only the neo-Nazi right, for the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday:
The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others....

Political conservatives even more than liberals need to renounce these racist impulses....
But the second half of the editorial makes clear that the Journal editorial board doesn't blame only the perpetrators:
The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions....

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories.... Down this road lies crude political tribalism....

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.
So the Journal ed board doesn't really believe that Spencer et al. "alone are to blame for the violence" in Charlottesville.

Rod Dreher's post on Charlottesville at the American Conservative also checks the "blame the perpetrators" box, but doesn't linger very long on their responsibility for the violence, because Dreher is in too much of a rush to blame the left:
Charlottesville is the kind of America that identity politics is calling into being. It’s time for straight talk about that.

On the Right, the story is fairly straightforward. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and their ilk have to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and marginalized....

It is not enough for conservative politicians and thought leaders to condemn these incidents. In their rhetoric, they need to start criticizing the principles of identity politics, across the board.

... we on the Right have to start speaking out without fear against identity politics — and calling out people on the Left, especially those within institutions, for practicing it. The alt-right has correctly identified a hypocritical double standard in American culture. It’s one that allows liberals and their favored minority groups to practice toxic identity politics — on campus, in the media, in corporate America, on the streets — while denying the possibility to whites and males. By speaking out against left-wing identity politics, and by explaining, over and over, why identity politics are wrong and destructive, conservatives strengthen their position in chastising white nationalists on the Right.
So the alt-rightists are awful -- but hey, they have a legitimate grievance, don't they?

Erick Erickson, writing for, skips the pro forma condemnation of the perpetrators and just blames the left:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the left-wing social justice warriors have created mobs across America intent on destroying lives for daring to engage in wrong-think, an equal and opposite white supremacist movement has risen up. Both would silence the other side for wrong-think. Both work at the extremes of American politics....

White supremacists, white nationalists, or alt-right are a group of people who have decided to embrace left-wing tactics and strategies to advance the noxious idea that the white race is superior to others....

The regressive ideas of the white supremacists in Charlottesville have no place in America any more than the censorious totalitarianism on display last week at Google.
I'm sure Heather Heyer's family would be happy if she could trade places with James Damore.

Blaming the hippies for right-wing violence is a venerable conservative tradition. Recently, on the New York Times op-ed page, Bret Stephens cited a 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial titled "No Guardrails," which is widely admired on the right. That editorial (scroll down here to read it unpaywalled) blamed 1960s left-wing culture for the murder of an abortion doctor:
The gunning down of abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life. In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are now so many marginalized people among us who don't understand the rules, who don't think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no notion of self-control....

We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won't like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The real blame here does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals--university professors, politicians and journalistic commentators--who said then that the acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a new culture, for political action and personal living....

Michael Griffin and Dr. David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal catastrophe going back 25 years.
Yes, 1960s leftists killed Dr. Gunn. Personal responsibility? No thanks -- we're conservatives.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


President Trump won't specifically condemn white nationalist violence, a choice Jeff Greenfield finds not only morally outrageous but baffling even as an act of profound political cynicism:
... think about it: Would any halfway rational political mind think that in condemning neo-Nazis and Klansmen, you would risk losing any part of your broader base? That crowd of losers in Charlottesville was tiny—no more than a few hundred people. Is there anything more than a small fragment of Trump’s supporters who genuinely sympathize with the white hoods and swastikas?
But let's turn the question on its head: Is there anyone in Trump's base who's going to abandon him because he won't condemn the neo-Nazis?

By now I assume we've all stopped doing what we were doing in late 2015 and throughout most of 2016: We know now that when Trump says or does something deeply offensive, it's unreasonable to assume that it will ruin his political career. Insult women, slander Gold Star parents, attack John McCain for his POW years -- no problem. Everyone in the base may not share those opinions, but none of it is ever a dealbreaker. So why should Trump condemn white racial hatred when part of his base clearly shares that racial hatred (and a much larger portion of the base than Greenfield believes), while the rest of the base literally cannot be offended by anything Trump says?

I think Trump would lose support if he condemned white racism, even among supporters who don't regard themselves as racist. It's been said many times that all Trump supporters may not be racist, but they're all tolerant of racism; I'd go further and say that they may not all be racist, but they would think less of Trump if he weren't being condemned for racist and offensive remarks. They love him because he angers people they hate, and because he won't back down when we challenge him. So, yes, he would risk losing a considerable part of his broader base if he condemned white racism. To his base, that would be seen as "politically correct." They continue to support Trump precisely because he isn't "PC." Of course he's not going to run that risk.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Protests in Charlottesville have turned violent. Here's the most disturbing incident:
A driver appeared to intentionally ram into a group of counterprotestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving at least 10 injured. Police say the injuries range in severity from life-threatening to minor. It is unclear if the driver of the car has been apprehended.

The right-wing media has now been forced to acknowledge what's going on in Charlottesville ... and the response at Breitbart is: Waaaah! You're being unfair to Trump!
1:10 p.m. ET – Some reactions from Twitter, predictably smearing President Trump and his advisers:

... 2:05 p.m. ET – Laura Ingraham points out that media is finding a convenient scapegoat to bash President Trump:

... 2:45 p.m. ET – Celebrities also use the opportunity to bash Trump. According to Gossip Cop:
Alyssa Milano, who deemed Friday night’s protest an example of “Trump’s America.” Mark Ruffalo cracked, “Got the ole fashioned Nazi feeling don’t it?” Katie Couric called it “a chilling scene.” And Piper Perabo told followers, “I just donated to @naacp & Charlottesville Pride @cvillepride. I am outraged at what happened last night. Counter protest march link below.”

Andy Richter ripped the participants as “human race traitors,” while Rosie O’Donnell said it was evidence of “THE TRUMP EFFECT.” She added, “#25thAmendmentNow #stopTRUMP.” ...
Gosh, I can't imagine why people would be linking this to Trump:

A link to Trump? Baffling!
During a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke said the event is in line with President Trump’s “promises.”

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

Why are so liberals so mean to the poor, innocent president?


This happened last night:
Chanting “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus Friday night.

... the march lasted 15 to 20 minutes before ending in skirmishes when the marchers were met by a small group of counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder.

A short brawl erupted after at least one of the counterprotesters apparently deployed a chemical spray, which affected the eyes of a dozen or so marchers. It left them floundering and seeking medical assistance....

The march came on the eve of the Unite the Right rally, a gathering of groups from around the country whose members have said they are being persecuted for being white and that white history in America is being erased.

The Saturday rally is being held at noon at Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park, home to a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that the city of Charlottesville voted to remove earlier this year.
It's being reported elsewhere that the white nationalists attacked the counterprotesters with "swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid."

The protesters carried torches, which is both chilling and absurd (absurd because they're tiki torches).

Among their chants was "Blood and soil."

Other chants: “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us.”

You might assume this is huge news in right-wing media. It isn't, at least so far. It's nowhere on Breitbart's front page (though the front page does feature stories such as "Starbucks Attracts Refugees with Latent TB"). Daily Caller? Nothing. Infowars? Nothing, although Infowars and its news spinoff Newswars both feature an AP story about the League of the South's perpetual calls for Southern secession.

Below the top block of stories (about North Korea), Fox News has the front-page headline "VIRGINIA ON GUARD: White Nationalist Rally Prompts Safety Precautions." The story, which is fairly neutral, focuses on today's planned protests (and Governor Terry McAuliffe's call for everyone to stay away from the protest site); there are a couple of paragraphs about what happened last night. At Drudge the demonstration is a sidebar (Venezuela is Drudge's top story), and Drudge also features the secession story, which is above the story about last night's demonstration.

Maybe it's early yet -- none of these folks are serious 24/7 newsgatherers. Maybe they haven't lined up their talking points yet. (How do we blame this on liberals?)

But they're not jumping on the story. They seem rather embarrassed by it.

Understandably, I think -- it gives the game away. They've spent so much time telling us that liberal accusations of racism are hype that they don't want to expose evidence that they're not hype. They've put so much effort into telling us that defenders of Confederate monuments wish only to preserve "heritage" and "history" that they inevitably want to downplay a demonstration that links support of Confederate monuments to white nationalism.

We'll see how the coverage evolves on the right. Meanwhile, here's my favorite comment, from a thread about Charlotttesville at Reddit's r/The_Donald:

Yeah, bummer.

Friday, August 11, 2017


I've been away from the Internet for a few hours, and I come back to this:
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would not rule out a "military option" in Venezuela as the ruling regime there consolidates power.

"We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club on Friday.

The president did not answer a question about whether American troops would lead a potential operation.

"We don't talk about it. But a military operation, a military option, is certainly something we could pursue," he responded.

Trump loves the tough talk. He's loved saying "fire and fury" and "lock and load." (Our last president was such a weak-kneed quisling he wouldn't even use alliteration!) And his fans love it. Not just the proletarians: Wesley Pruden of The Washington Times has an opinion piece titled "Donald Trump’s Plain Speech to Kim Jong-un, Delivered Hot and Loud." (Oooh, hot and loud -- do you need a cigarette, Wesley?)

Do the fans care if Trump follows through? They apparently aren't bothered by the fact that Mexico will never pay for the wall -- they just wanted to hear Trump say it. They want Trump to perform toughness. They don't seem to care if he is tough. Trump makes liberals squeal -- that's what they see, and that's what they care about. As far as they're concerned, based on only this, Trump has already won.


David Brooks thinks Google shouldn't have fired James Damore, because SCIENCE:
In his memo, Damore cites a series of studies, making the case, for example, that men tend to be more interested in things and women more interested in people. (Interest is not the same as ability.) Several scientists in the field have backed up his summary of the data.
But wasn't the memo offensive to women? Oh, yeah, that's true:
We should all have a lot of sympathy for ... the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder. Picture yourself in a hostile male-dominated environment, getting interrupted at meetings, being ignored, having your abilities doubted, and along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress. Of course you’d object.
So Brooks acknowledges that the Damore memo made the work environment more hostile. But that okay, isn't it?

No, it isn't. The memo told women that either (a) they're not qualified to do tech work or (b) they're freaks within their gender. To Brooks, that's not a serious workplace problem.

Does Brooks go to an office every day and stay there for eight hours, day in and day out? When was the last time he did that routinely? If he doesn't do that, and hasn't for years, I don't think he's capable of understanding what creating a hostile work environment means.

Beyond that, he decries the moral fervor of what he describes as the "mob" that expressed outrage at Damore:
The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.
And so Brooks's response to this controversy is...?
There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai....

Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position.
Brooks is urging Pichai to resign as CEO. In fact, the headline on this column is "Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O."

Which is totally not "moral absolutism" aimed at "purging an evil person." Right?

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Let's kick back and watch the red-on-red warfare:
President Trump lashed out on Wednesday at the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who suggested this week that the president harbored “excessive expectations” about the pace of congressional progress.

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, as he and lawmakers took time away from Washington during the August recess. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
This was followed by another tweet written by the vacationing Trump:

Trump doesn't seem to believe that a president and his aides are supposed to help craft legislation. He wrote this tweet as if he was ordering takeout.

In The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren contends that all this is a sign Trump wants to leave the GOP:
President Donald Trump is inching closer to abandoning the Republican party....

Trump has been building the case against his fellow Republicans for some time, but it came to a head late last month as Obamacare repeal began its path in the Senate. “Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time,” he tweeted on July 29. “If the Senate Democrats ever got the chance, they would switch to a 51 majority vote in first minute. They are laughing at R’s. MAKE CHANGE!” Then, a few days later, he blamed the “all-time & very dangerous low” relations with Russia on Congress, “the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”

Trump’s short-term target was the filibuster and its most important defender, Mitch McConnell. But the beginnings of the broader argument against the GOP are all right there, in 140 characters at a time. Republicans are fools, they’re impotent, and everyone’s laughing at them.
But a D.C. insider quoted in The Washington Post makes the obvious point that this is Trump we're talking about, so we shouldn't be imagining there's a well-crafted plan:
“Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a Republican consultant and former Capitol Hill staffer. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”
What Trump is doing is what he does in his White House, and possibly what he did in his business: He's failing to do any hard work himself, he's berating anyone who doesn't get done what he wants accomplished, and he doesn't care how much chaos this generates as long as the result is that he's surrounded by people who promise to do whatever he demands without ever annoying him. (Nearly everyone annoys him eventually, if only because it's often literally impossible to do what he wants, especially when he won't lift a finger to help. So the cycle never ends.)

Hey, Mitch, you wanted this guy to be president? Reap the whirlwind.

The odd thing about that Weekly Standard story is that the latter half essentially contradicts the first half. Warren says that Trump is getting ready to abandon the GOP -- but the GOP is becoming Trumpier:
All of this is complicated by the fact that the unelected party infrastructure is aligning itself more with Trump. The Republican National Committee chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, has taken to chastising elected Republicans critical of Trump, such as Jeff Flake, by pointing to those GOP candidates who lost in 2016 after publicly distancing themselves from the presidential nominee. “There is a cautionary tale there because voters want you to support the president in his agenda,” McDaniel said this week. And McDaniel’s latest hire, as national spokesperson for the RNC? Former CNN contributor and reliably pro-Trump talking head Kayleigh McEnany.

Speaking of the continued Trumpification of the GOP infrastructure, it’s worth noting that a PAC supporting Jeff Flake’s rival in next year’s Arizona Senate GOP primary just received a big donation from the conservative, and increasingly pro-Trump, donor Robert Mercer.
Trump isn't leaving the GOP -- he and his allies are trying to purge or marginalize people who've displeased Trump, including McConnell. The goal isn't to break free of the party -- it's to prevent Trump from being annoyed. The party will become more Trump-like, and Trump won't leave -- he'll just compel others to leave.


I'm fairly certain we don't have to worry about this:
... how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant [voter] fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem....

We focus on the 650 respondents who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

... respondents were asked whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs....

Then the survey asked ... about postponing the 2020 election.

... 52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election [if Trump supported the postponement], and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.
My first thought: I'm amazed the numbers are as low as they are. I would have thought they'd be in the 70s or 80s.

Republicans are about a third of the electorate. If Trump were to call for an election postponement, this poll suggests that only one-sixth of the country would back him up (plus, in all likelihood, a tiny fraction of Democrats and independents). That's fairly reassuring.

Moreover, I don't expect Trump to make this recommendation, because he regularly reassures himself that bad poll numbers are "fake news," while good poll numbers are the truth, however dubious they are. Just today he retweeted a completely untrustworthy Twitter poll created by an account that also dabbles in right-wing memes and follows mostly right-wing partisans, alt-rightist, and various Trumps:

I'm hoping that Trump will refrain from urging the suspension of democratic elections just because he'll believe he can win even if he's losing. (After 2016, I suppose you can't blame him for thinking that way.)

On the other hand, we don't know what the numbers would be like if there were a concerted push in the right-wing media for a postponement. Would Fox et al. go that far? That seems to be a line that hasn't been crossed yet. Let's hope it stays that way.

I don't think the line will be crossed -- but if Democrats do well in 2018 and/or 2020, let's not forget that the right will work very hard to delegitimize the results along these lines. If only half of Republicans buy the voter-fraud line, I'd say we're safe. But there'll still be a disturbing number of election truthers, even if they can't really discredit the results.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Two stories. The first one is about an election for a seat in the Iowa state legislature:
In the midst of a new national debate on transgender soldiers serving in the military, voters in Southeast Iowa were seeing their TVs inundated with campaign ads about transgender bathrooms. Their target was Phil Miller, the Democratic candidate in the House District 82 special election, who had voted on the school board to keep in place a policy on transgender students using the bathroom of their gender identity....

But it didn’t work. At all....

Miller defeated Republican Travis Harris last night by ten points, 54% to 44%, far better than Democrats’ most optimistic hopes. That’s a swing in favor of Democrats of 32 points, given that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the district by 22 points. And it’s even an improvement over Obama’s 2-point margin of victory over Mitt Romney in the district in 2012.
Recently, Democrats have had a lot of success in local races like these. One day in May, they won two state legislative seats in districts that had gone for Trump, one in New Hampshire and the other in New York. Daily Kos counts fourteen Democratic special election victories since trump's election.

But now here's the second story:
“Dictatorial.” “Arrogant.” “Pompous.” “Superficial.” “Tone-deaf.” “Tone-dead.” “Out of line.” “Insulting” — “absolutely insulting.”

These are the words that Nina Turner, president of the group founded by Bernie Sanders to further his "political revolution," used in an interview to describe the Democratic National Committee. The grievances converge around a recent trip to deliver petitions to the party’s headquarters in Washington, where Turner and other progressives were greeted by barricades, security guards, and an offering of donuts and water, an empty gesture, as she saw it ... all of which has left Turner with the view, as she puts it, that "the establishment side of the Democratic Party have shown themselves to be dictators" who "want to dictate the terms of unity."

... DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa, citing the current political climate in Washington, said barricades are put in place anytime there is a large crowd, protocol set by the “building security team,” she said, not party officials.

A spread of donuts and water had also been set up for the Our Revolution party. Turner took particular issue with the donuts and water, which she called “hand-out trinkets."
Why am I linking these stories? Because while Democrats have a golden opportunity to make big gains in upcoming elections, at a time when much of the public is recoiling from the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress's heartless agenda, I'm starting to believe that the closer the office is to the top of the food chain, the less likely it is that Democrats will win it the next time around. State legislative seats? I think Democrats can win a lot of those. Congressional races? I have a fair amount of hope, but I'm less confident than I am about the local races.

President? I think that could be the hardest win.

The reason is this damn civil war between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party. I don't think it's coming into play in the local elections, so pro-Democratic energy is undiminished. It's more of a factor in congressional elections -- and Democrats haven't won one since Trump's victory (although they've done well in districts that have been out reach in the past).

The presidency? I don't know if Democrats (and Sanders voters who might not think of themselves as Democrats) are capable of ending the warfare and uniting around any candidate. There seems to be unending bitterness on both sides. The 2020 election ought to be a slam dunk, but it seems as if it won't be because the people who think Kamala Harris is a neoliberal sellout aren't speaking to the people who think Bernie Sanders leads a movement composed exclusively of dudebro racists, and vice versa.

I don't think this matters much at the local level. We're told this about that Iowa legislative race:
It’s difficult to tell just how much the margin in Jefferson County was caused by backlash to the Republican TV ads. Miller is very well-known in his home county, working as a veterinarian and serving on the school board.
That's what mattered. I don't imagine "dudebro" or "neoliberal" was uttered even once during the campaign.

But the further up the ballot you go, the more this fight is killing Democrats. So I could easily imagine the Trump backlash flipping a large number of state legislative seats and a modest number of seats in Congress -- while leaving the White House in GOP hands. Can we please figure out a way to do better than that?


President Trump made headlines yesterday when he promised "fire and fury" in response to North Korea's nuclear moves, and today The New York Times assures us that it was a spontaneous outburst:
President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them.
I'm going to stick with my theory from yesterday -- that Stephen Miller provided the wording -- but I can imagine other possible authors. Sebastian Gorka? Maybe one of Trump's phone-a-friends? Roger Stone? Newt Gingrich? Some Wall Street master of the universe? Who knows?

I'm sure tht the Times is at least partly correct: It's likely that Trump didn't "run the specific language by" at least some of his advisers. Getting everyone on the same page is not how Trump rolls. Many of his aides might honestly believe that the line was improvised because they assume it would have been discussed and vetted in the White House before Trump went public with it. But that's not Trump's M.O.

Wouldn't the author want to claim credit, or at least surreptitiously get out the word that he or she (I'm guessing he) was the author? I think the author knows better. Trump really doesn't like it when someone else seizes the spotlight. The author knows this, and so do his allies in the White House.

If the author was Miller, notice what he was doing yesterday:
“President Trump is the most gifted politician of our time. He’s the best orator to hold that office in generations,” Miller said in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who was filling in on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
An excellent moment to be deferential. I'm sure that will be very good for Miller's career advancement.

This wouldn't be the first White House in which getting credit for a presidential utterance could put your career in jeopardy. Remember what happened to David Frum in the George W. Bush presidency:
The public had a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the White House yesterday when David Frum, the man said to have invented the phrase "axis of evil", resigned from President George Bush's speechwriting team, causing a debate as to whether he walked out or was pushed.

Mr Frum became well known after President Bush used the term in his state of the union address. But his celebrity came about only because his wife, Danielle, emailed friends with "wifely pride" to claim credit for her husband. The message was picked up by the media.

This was considered an affront to the discreet and collegiate traditions of the speechwriters' room, whose occupants are accustomed to having their precious words appropriated by the president, rewritten or scrapped, but are expected to remain stoically anonymous.

The Frumgate affair erupted when the commentator Robert Novak claimed on CNN that the president was so infuriated by the emails that Mr Frum was fired.
So it would be wise for the author not to take credit.

I'll grant the (remote) possibility that the words were Trump's -- but even so, Trump wasn't improvising. Watch the clip again.

We've seen Trump improvise. He improvised an hour a night in most of his campaign speeches, although he repeated familiar riffs. He didn't hesitate in those speeches. He didn't get that lost look he has in the above clip. And if the paper in front of him is just notes from his opioid meeting, why does he sneak four glances at it in the course of an utterance that goes on for a little more than half a minute?

Somebody worked the wording out in advance. Maybe it was Trump himself. More likely, Trump got it from an aide. Trump never quite memorized it. Whatever happened, now he's being ceded the credit.

This also reminds me of the moment in 2008 when we were told that Sarah Palin improvised a great deal of her Republican convention speech because the Teleprompter broke halfway through. The story was repeatedly debunked, but for her fans it became part of her legend. Trump is the male Palin, so why not cook up a similar myth for him?


A Republican president is rattling sabers and an evangelical preacher linked to that president is loudly shouting "Amen":
Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
Fellow religious conservative Rod Dreher is shocked and appalled:
This is obscene! God forbid that we should have to go to war at all, much less a nuclear war, which would be a catastrophe for humanity. But Jeffress ought to be praying against such a thing, not goading it on. What is wrong with him?!
(Emphasis in original.)

Dreher is apparently the only person on the planet who doesn't know that politically connected right-wing preachers are reflexively in favor of American wars. Whether it's Jerry Falwell fighting the nuclear freeze movement in the U.S. in the 1980s and writing an essay at the height of the Iraq conflict titled "God Is Pro-War" or Billy Graham's preacher son Franklin asserting that "Islam has declared war on the world, and it's high time we acknowledge it and respond decisively," this is the most predictable Christian conservative reaction imaginable. Where has Dreher spent the past several decades of his life if he doesn't know this?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


I'm sure this is fine:
President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangers the United States as tensions with the isolated nuclear-armed state grow into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet in his young administration.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Trump enjoys acting like a tough guy, but he doesn't sound natural saying "fire and fury" (or "best not," for that matter). He starts out saying this as if he's memorized it, but the swagger gets lost as he sneaks glances at his cheat sheet several times. (Trust me -- he'll never learn to read a prepared statement convincingly.)

Who wrote this? My money's on Stephen Miller. He's fond of hyperbole such as "the likes of which this world has never seen before" -- here he is on Face the Nation in February, after a North Korean missile test, promising that the result of Trump's proposed military buildup will be that "once again we will have unquestioned military strength beyond anything anyone can imagine."

Now, a question from Glenn Thrush of The New York Times:

Trump likes generals a lot, but I'm sure he'd very much dislike being upstaged by one. If we're on the verge of war, Trump has to be seen as the tough guy -- he can't imagine stepping back and letting others talk. He feels he has to be the face of this the same way he felt he had to elbow his way to the front in that group photo at the NATO summit.

Terrified yet?


At GQ, Jason Zengerle tries to imagine a Mike Pence presidency -- and doesn't get very far. The bulk of Zengerle's speculation concerns the sort of inside baseball you'd expect from a former Politico writer:
Consensus holds that Pence would want to surround himself with new staff—particularly Republican heavyweights, aides and operatives of the stature and pedigree that Trump wasn’t able to lure to the White House.

Dan Scavino, Trump’s former golf caddie who now serves as the White House director of social media and an assistant to the president, would almost certainly be bounced. Ditto for rookie staffers and family members like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Strategists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller? “I’m sure Mike prays for both of their souls every night,” says one former Pence adviser, predicting they’d be axed.

Surprisingly, one high-profile survivor might be Kellyanne Conway....
Enough. So, Jason, what about, y'know, policy? On that subject, Zengerle has a smoking-hot take: that the proudly evangelical Pence would actually be less Jesus-y than his current boss, a notion Zengerle gets from a couple of well-positioned but rather naive insiders.

No, really:
Perhaps [Pence's] most infamous move as governor of Indiana was signing a bill allowing businesses to discriminate against gays. Pence also pushed to mandate burials for aborted fetuses and made it possible to charge doctors who carried out certain abortions with wrongful death.

But for all the fears of a coming theocracy under Pence, more sober-minded observers suspect he could be largely hamstrung on sweeping social issues. Indeed, Pence’s religious fervor might, ironically, give him less room to push for some of the conservative policies Trump has enacted. For instance, Trump’s reinstatement of a ban on U.S. foreign aid being shared with NGOs that perform abortions probably would have garnered more attention—and been perceived as more of a religiously motivated move by critics—had it been orchestrated by Pence. “Trump can do a lot of socially conservative things,” Ponnuru says, “without getting the reputation of a moralistic theocrat because of his bad character—the charge is just not believable.”

There’s a way of thinking about Trump’s outrageous behavior—and even the scandals that result from it—as politically helpful to Trump. Anita Dunn, who served as communications director in the Obama White House, has detected in Trump’s antics a kind of smoke screen that keeps his policies from being fully dissected. “When Trump does horrible stuff like [the abortion-funding ban],” she says, “he’s providing a high level of entertainment on so many levels that people don’t have the energy to notice as much. There’s no way Pence will ever take up as much oxygen.” And as a result, the thinking goes, Pence’s ambitions might be easier to oppose.
You know what will provide a smoke screen for Pence if he becomes president? Not being Trump. The press, including allegedly liberal organs, will be over the moon if Trump is pushed out, and will revel in Pence's surface blandness and willingness to operate within traditional governing norms. That's what every story about him will focus on during his inevitable long honeymoon: He's filling subcabinet positions! He's spends quiet weekends reading briefing books and having dinner with his wife! He doesn't tweet!

And so if he wants to push out a Focus on the Family-approved executive order at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, he'll weather the storm. The usual voices on our side will raise alarms, but the mainstream press will luxuriate in Pence being so gosh-darn Middle American, so ... regular.

It will take quite a while for progressives to become fully reenergized in order to fight Pence. In the meantime, he'll get away with a lot.